The first annual Graduate Business Thruway Invitational Case Competition was held April 17-18, 2020 via Zoom. Hosted by the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester, it featured three teams each from SUNY Buffalo, University of Rochester and the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. One of the Whitman teams placed third in the business analytical competition.
Case competitions are popular in the business school arena; MBA and supply chain versions have been held for decades. Additional specialty case competitions, such as business analytics are relatively new, according to Don Harter, associate professor of management information systems and director of the M.S. in Business Analytics program at Whitman.
“Case competitions are important to students so they can learn to rapidly analyze realistic business situations, develop alternative solutions, and justify recommendations to superiors,” says Harter. “This skill set is valuable for interviewing for industry positions through case interviews and being prepared to excel in a business setting after graduation.”
At the University of Rochester case competition the teams examined the option of implementing checkout-free “go” technology in a grocery store in Corning, New York. Amazon has successfully created a similar store in Seattle where cameras monitor and record purchases of customers, with no checkout required. When a customer leaves the store, the customer’s credit card is automatically charged for items picked up in the store. Students had three hours to prepare the case, followed by a 15 minute presentation to a panel of corporate judges and 7 minutes for questions and answers.
The Whitman team included James Coleman ’21 MBA, Sabina Seredneva ’21 MBA, Roland Lindmayer ’22 JD/MBA and Kaan Canayaz ’21, master’s in marketing student.
“This was my first case competition since starting my MBA,” says Coleman. “Despite the physical event being canceled due to COVID-19, it was still an excellent experience working and presenting over Zoom. We had the chance to network a bit with other graduate students. We were also able to speak with the three judges who provided thorough feedback and tips they’ve gathered from their own diverse experience.”
Seredneva notes that the judges were from the “real business world, sharing valuable feedback.” Lindmayer adds that the judges provided “insightful advice” with concrete ideas on how their presentations could be even better.
“I learned that a team could have the best analysis in the world, but if they are unable to convey a clear and confident decision, then the analysis holds no value,” he says. “The competition has helped me because it provided a real-world example with real-world data…and it has shown me how quickly a team can synthesize information and make a decision about an important project or investment in a short period of time.”
All the students agreed the case competition was a rewarding experience, netting invaluable skills; they all would do it again, if given the chance, perhaps even on the same team. “We had great synergy,” says Seredneva.
Learn more about experiential learning opportunities at Whitman.
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