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UofGH Business Students Place 2nd in Case Competition, 1st in School Spirit
On October 17, 2014, University of Guelph-Humber placed second in the Wharton Undergraduate Consulting Club (WUCC) Case Competition, hosted by world-renowned business school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The competition challenged 13 teams from top North American universities to present their solution to a real-world business problem before a panel of expert judges.
Among them, four UofGH Business students overcame last-minute pressures and a daunting amount of data to present one of the most innovative solutions, earning a second-place prize of $400 and the ultimate victory in team spirit.
From left to right: Michael Legosz, Lily Mullins, Tomson Varghese and Jaylen McCurbin.
It was a defining opportunity for four UofGH Business students.
Assistant Vice-Provost and Program Head, Business, Prof. George Bragues, and Assistant Program Head, Business, Justin Medakiewicz, are always on the lookout for creative opportunities for students, including case competitions. “Our reason for sending students to case competitions is two-fold,” explains Prof. Bragues. “We want to give students an opportunity to enhance their resumes and network with employers to help them embark on their careers.” Medakiewicz adds, “Case competitions allow students to apply the theories and concepts learned in class to real-life situations they may face in the business world.”
They came together only weeks before the competition.
Michael Legosz, Jaylen McCurbin, Lily Mullins and Tomson Varghese had never worked as a team before the WUCC Case Competition. Medakiewicz selected them from a pool of Business program candidates based on the application criteria and their diverse skills in different areas of emphasis. Michael is a third-year Accounting student, Jaylen is a fourth-year Accounting student, Lily is a third-year Marketing student, and Tomson is a third-year International Business student.
The team hit it off right away, crediting UofGH’s close-knit community for their ability to get down to business without wasting time on formalities and icebreakers. “We all knew each other before going into the case,” explains Michael. “This gave us a huge advantage over other schools as we didn’t have to introduce ourselves or work on our team chemistry in any way. We went straight into the case in our first meeting.”
They faced what seemed at times an insurmountable task.
This year’s case for the competition was a task consulting giant, Nielson, once had to face. Working with over 90 pages of data, teams had to present an expansion strategy for a Spanish food company hoping to enter the U.S. market. They learned the details of the case only one week before the competition date. It was at the time of mid-terms and Thanksgiving. Add to that part-time jobs and a 13-hour drive to Philadelphia, and it’s not hard to imagine the sleepless and late nights. Looking back, they joke about Tomson piecing together the PowerPoint during the drive. He sat squished between Lily and Jaylen and had to alternate laptops to conserve battery life.
They felt like giving up at times. “We all hit our lows at one point,” explains Michael. Luckily, the others were there to pick up the discouraged team member’s spirits. “At least 75 per cent of the case was done, and we just had a bit more to do,” says Tomson of his lowest point. Last-minute slivers of doubt about the work yet to be done threatened to break his spirit. Tomson admits he thought, “You know what? We’re gonna lose guys.” Tomson recalls how the group rallied behind him: “All of them at once said, ‘We will win! We will win! There’s nothing to be worried about.’”
A triumphant solution.
In the first round of presentations, Michael, Jaylen, Lily and Tomson exuded only confidence as they presented their business solution. “The judges seemed very pleased and surprised with the strategy we spent countless hours on,” states Michael. They offered a low-risk solution that allowed the Spanish firm to collect royalties during a two-year licensing period to a successful U.S. commercial manufacturer with nationwide distribution channels and market awareness.
It was unlike any other solution presented; it invited a barrage of questions from the intrigued judges. While they weathered these questions smoothly in the first round, they faced even more in the second round of presentations, which included additional judges. The team felt if they had used more concrete examples to quell the first kernel of doubt over licensing, they could have won first place.
A winning experience.
For Michael, Jaylen, Lily and Tomson, the entire experience was a success. Other victories included a quote from their presentation making its way into the keynote speaker’s final address, the chance to explore the consulting field and apply the theories they learned in class, and, more importantly, celebratory Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches.
It was a second-place triumph for four Business students, but it will go down in our books as another victory of the UofGH team spirit.