Montreal competition gives MBA students real-life experience

Anna Masters

In only three hours, four Kent State students had to present a real-life business strategy to some of the world’s top business professionals at the 26th John Molson MBA International Case Competition in Montreal Jan. 8 through Jan. 15.

The business administration master’s degree students who participated in the competition were Byron Fay, Chad King, Veronica Seevers, Liz Viall and an alternate Dijana Delibegovic. This was only Kent State’s second year in the competition and it ranked 25 out of 36 teams.

The students participated in an intense five-day competition where they were given three hours to read, analyze, discuss and create a business strategy for some of the world’s largest companies. They then presented the case against some of the best schools in the world while being judged by highly distinguished business professionals.

Felecia Urbanek, coordinator of graduate programs for the College of Business Administration, was the team’s coach during the competition. She said the case competition encompasses every functional area of business and is a great assessment of student learning.

“Our students worked extremely hard throughout the entire competition and really benefited from the experience,” Urbanek said. “They have gained confidence that what they are learning at Kent State is the same as what students are learning at University of Chicago, Laval, Paderborn, Wilfrid Laurie, Indian Institute of Management, Xiamen University, or any other ‘good’ school.”

Chad King, a marketing graduate assistant, said the team gained confidence in public speaking because there was only a limited amount of time and participants had no clue what they were going to say when presenting.

One of the cases the team faced was British Airways losing money on short flights. The four students had to create the best business strategy that would help the company solve its problems.

The students practiced with six mock cases to prepare for cases like the British Airways problem. Kent State faculty members acted as judges and the team presented its strategies in front of them.

The team thought the most difficult case was its live case from Alcan, an aluminum-making company with its head office in Montreal. The top executive of the company described the problem and then students had two hours to create a strategy. The problem involved the company trying to move into Russia to find cheaper energy to make aluminum.

“Throughout the competition our team showed that they have a thorough understanding of strategy and the functional areas of business,” Urbanek said. “They did not seem to lack anything with regard to the skills needed to compete.”

The competition was a good opportunity for the students to network with peers from other schools and also with the judges. Recruiters were present at the competition to look for potential hires. Viall received an e-mail from a human resource consultant in Canada.

As far as the competition helping Kent State’s master’s in business administration program, King said he thinks it will help the program and the team show they can do well and even better with more support and training. Viall said the group learned so much more this year and can pass along more information to the next team.

Seevers, who would like to become a professor, said the competition will help form the way she teaches.

“Hands-on experience would be so much better; you have to do group work in order to learn,” she said.

Students also remarked that the trip was a beneficial learning experience in a comfortable environment.

“It was more fun than what I thought it’d be,” King said. “Everyone was just as stressed out, but everyone had mutual respect (for each other), and everyone recognized how good every other school was.”

Contact college of business administration reporter Anna Masters at [email protected].