Pictured are, from left, Mark Serva, of the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics faculty, members of the winning team Brett Weber, Jialu Liu and Navid Khabazian, and Andrea Everard, also of the Lerner College faculty.

On the case

Carol A. Ammon MBA Case Competition winners announced by Lerner College

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7:52 a.m., March 23, 2011----After weeks of preparation, a demanding morning of preliminary round presentations and afternoon presentations involving final analysis by top industry leaders, Brett Weber, Jialu Liu, Adrian Farrar and Navid Khabazian of Team NBAC emerged victorious as this year's winners of the Carol A. Ammon MBA Case Competition.

The competition was held last Friday afternoon by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware.

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“In the end, I think one of our strengths was that we were able to approach the case issue from multiple angles,” said Weber.

“We took the strengths of each team member and allowed those to shine,” added Farrar. “That plus keeping the focus holistic and using the entire spectrum of business to evaluate B Lab helped us pull together a successful presentation.”

Sandeep Rath, Kunal Dusia and Neha Pandit of Team NKS placed second and Yu Zhu, Weiming Zhou, Yi Wang and Aron Megyeri representing Team Wika came in third.

A common feeling among the teams was the role the competition played in supporting their learning.

Representatives of Team NKS noted they came across the phrase “evolution from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism” in their research, which opened their eyes to real world issues in business.

“The competition helped us identify this larger tectonic shift in the corporate world, apply traditional business learning to this new age concept and truly prepared us for the next generation of business opportunities,” said the Team NKS members. “The end result is tremendous value added to our business acumen and skill set.”

Megyeri agreed that the competition added value to his skill set.

“Working on the case was a great way to improve my problem-solving ability,” said Megyeri. “I also improved my presentation skills as a result of having the opportunity to present before a large audience and judges.”

The three winning teams received plaques and cash awards for their accomplishments.

Making the case for case competitions

Andrea Everard, associate professor of accounting and management information systems (MIS), and Mark Serva, assistant professor of MIS and associate director of the Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education, made up the Faculty Competition Committee and explained the appeal of the competition as part of the learning process.

“The case competition represents the best of the Lerner graduate educational process,” said Serva. “It requires students to address an ill-defined and real problem, and these types of scenarios reflect the types of problems students will face in the real world.”

Added Everard, “The competition also offers a unique opportunity for graduate students to present their analysis to the CEO of the focal company. How many graduate students experience that during their studies? How many other case competitions offer that?”

This year, student teams gave strategic presentations revealing their viewpoints and plans for the advancement of the nonprofit B Lab, which developed the idea of certified beneficial corporations (B Corps) that are active in social and environmental issues.

Serva expressed gratitude for the participation of the final round judges, who also contributed value to students' learning experience.

“The unique opportunity to gain feedback from a top corporate executive, a consultant in the area of sustainability and one of the founders of the target company allowed the students to understand how well their approached addressed the problem,” said Serva.

Final round judges included Bart Houlahan, co-founder of the case company, B Lab; Stephanie Y. Toland, owner and principal consultant of Athena Business Services LLC; and Thomas E. Ferro, vice president of market information at Bank of America.

Serva also noted that students received feedback throughout the weeks preceding the competition to improve the strength of their analysis vis-a-vis a question and answer session, alumni coaching sessions and the Lerner faculty roundtable on corporate social responsibility.

The end result was that the presentations “were fascinating because each team approached the problem from a very different perspective,” said Serva. “Some teams advocated a marketing approach, for example, while another attempted to redefine B Lab's basic metrics.”

Record student participation

Amy Estey, MBA program manager, also touted the competition as one of the centerpieces of the out-of-classroom learning experience in the MBA program and noted the increase in this year's participation.

“We were delighted to have a record number of entries of 55 students on 14 teams representing nearly every graduate business program,” said Estey. “The winning team included students from the master of science degree programs in accounting, organizational effectiveness, development and change, and the MBA program.”

She also commended the students for the hours they put into analysis and preparation for the competition, noting their participation is in addition to students' regular load of classes, jobs and family obligations.

Other teams, coaches, judges

Other case competition teams included: Ocean Four (Jack Lin, Bumhwan Jeon, Tingting Liu and Yingfei Li), Lerner Bees (Alex Chaplin, Matthew Kahn, Corey Johnson and Chao Yin), Superior Junior (Kai Cheng, Tsung-Yu Ho, Qifang Lu and Shen Wang), Chester (Lisheng Liu, Chenggang Wang, Weida Ren and Tao Zhang), synergy (Brett Friedberg, Geetika Takkar and Kevin Shalley), Highness the Queen (Lei Shan, Wei Jiang, Li Dai and Chang Liu), Aspirants/Business Minds (Yaw Boakye-Hwedie, Varsha Bhambhani, Lilly Archana Chandran and Shwetha Mruthyunjaya), Massimo (Anthony Ripanti, Dan Mason, Lee Lenkner and Carolyn Theim), Optimum Outcome (Sathanandan K. Palanisamy, Anthony Alagbile, Madhura Badade and Neha Bajpai), Unicorn (Ling Lam, Jing Zhang, Yue Qiao and Xin Gao), and Business Fighters (Dinara Maskulova, Guoyu Zhu, Roshni Chopra and Rebecca Wisely).

The Graduate and Executive Programs staff thanked the commitment of the following individuals:

Alumni coaches Ed Augustine, Walt Chiquoine and Bakhtavar Mody Wykpisz; and

Preliminary round judges Ram Bala, strategic planner at AAAMidAtlantic; Alex Brown, a 1991 MBA alumnus and author of Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy; Elmer Cherry, senior contracts administrator at Northrop Grumman Corp.; Gigi Cuckler, economist in the Office of the Actuary, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Iwona Evans, finance manager at MIDI Inc.; Chip Fody, director of U.S. Sales at Tissot Inc. (US); Frank Gao, senior engineer at the Delaware Air Quality Program, state of Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; Jonathan Katz, corporate development analyst at Barclay's; Howard Keener, director of programs and strategies at the Blood Bank of Delmarva; Sanjay Mukherjee, vice president of marketing services at JPMorgan Chase; Ioana Parja, finance analyst for GlaxoSmithKline, R&D Finance; and D. Hunter Reed, portfolio manager at JPMorgan Private Bank.

“I am continuously amazed at the students' abilities to effectively break down complex business problems into simple terms and recommend effective solutions,” said Mukherjee.

Added Estey, “We knew we had a winner when the preliminary round judges took so much longer to determine the three finalists. In fact, another judge and alumnus of this competition made a point of telling me the quality of this year's teams was the best yet.”

Article by Kathryn A. Marrone
Photos by Duane Perry

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