You are here: Home / News Release Archives / 2011 / February / Smeal Team Takes Second Place in International Marshall Cup

Smeal Team Takes Second Place in International Marshall Cup

A team of four undergraduates from the Penn State Smeal College of Business finished in second place in the Marshall International Case Competition held on Feb. 15-19 and hosted by the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.
February 28, 2011

A team of four undergraduates from the Penn State Smeal College of Business finished in second place in the Marshall International Case Competition held on Feb. 15-19 and hosted by the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.

Twenty-nine teams from the world's leading business schools were invited to participate in this year's competition, held on the USC campus in Los Angeles. After 24 hours of preparation and two rounds of presentations, Smeal's team of Chris Gray, Paul Lerew, Theresa Piazza, and Courtney Powell bested all of the teams but one, New Zealand's University of Auckland.

The competition officially kicked off on the morning of Feb. 18 when the teams received the case and had 24 hours to prepare their presentations. The case centered on developing a new global human resources strategy for Hewlett-Packard. Several HP executives served as judges for the competition, in addition to others from business, government and academia. Teams were judged based on the quality of their analysis, their presentations, and their ability to answer the judges' questions.

For their presentation, the members of Smeal's team drew inspiration from one of Penn State's signature athletic cheers and developed a plan of engagement for HP employees centered on the theme of "We Are HP." They focused on uniting HP employees worldwide while also celebrating the many diverse cultures represented in the regions where HP has a presence around the world. The team spent its 24 hours of preparation time in a hotel room researching HP's HR initiatives and policies and devising an overarching strategy to attract, retain and engage the company's more than 300,000 employees.

The team's preparation began a few weeks prior to the contest by studying cases from prior years' competitions and reviewing videos of past performances by Smeal participants with faculty adviser Andy Gustafson, assistant professor of business administration. Gustafson, who has advised Smeal teams in the Marshall International Case Competition for years, including during two Marshall Cup victories in 2001 and 2003, critiqued the team's performance during practice sessions and pointed out strengths and weaknesses in past teams' presentations.

During the first round of the competition, Smeal was grouped with the University of Minnesota, The National University of Singapore, and Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi (Italy). After advancing out of the group round, the team competed in the final round against the University of Texas, Thammasat University (Thailand), the University of Manchester (United Kingdom), the University of Auckland, and USC.

Three of the team members—Gray, Piazza and Powell—have competed together in previous case competitions, and Powell credits that experience for their success in California.

"We all knew each other and our respective strengths going into this competition," she says. "We didn't have to spend much time honing our presentation skills because we've done this before. We knew what we had to do presentation-wise, so we could focus all of our efforts on developing a strategy that addressed the case."

In addition to the competition itself, the four-day schedule included several social activities to allow the participants to get to know each other before the competing began. They participated in a scavenger hunt in Santa Monica, tours of the USC campus and CBS studios, and even a bull-riding contest.

Beyond the hard skills the team sharpened in the competition itself, Powell says the best part of the experience was competing with, and getting to know, students from more than a dozen countries around the world.

"The whole experience had a more global feel to it than other competitions, from the case itself to our competitors," she says. "It was incredibly valuable just to be able to compete with so many high caliber students from around the world. It really helped us all to grow our global perspective."

Not only will these new contacts potentially be a boon to her future career, but Powell adds that she's looking forward to visiting her new friends around the world after she graduates next year.

For more information and a complete list of the schools that participated in the Marshall International Case Competition, visit

Recent News
Ethical Behavior Can Be Contagious 30 Sep

A new study from Penn State Smeal College of Business faculty members Steven Huddart and Hong Qu examines the power of social influence on managers’ ethical behavior. The Department of Accounting researchers find that managers tend to become more honest after observing honest peers and more dishonest after observing dishonest peers.

Smeal to Contribute to GE-Supported Center to Study Natural Gas Supply Chains 25 Sep

GE announced that it will invest up to $10 million in Penn State to establish a new innovation center focused on driving cutting-edge advancements in the natural gas industry. The Center for Collaborative Research on Intelligent Natural Gas Supply Systems at Penn State (CCRINGSS) will engage Penn State researchers and students from many disciplines in collaborative work with various industry stakeholders. The center will seek to advance efficiency and environmental sustainability both through technological innovations and improved supply chain management.

Supply Chain Researchers Claim a Shift Toward 'Supply Ecosystems' 25 Sep

A new article from Penn State Smeal College of Business faculty member Christopher W. Craighead and colleagues David Ketchen at Auburn University—a 1994 graduate of the Smeal Ph.D. Program—and Russell Crook at the University of Tennessee suggest that disruptive technologies are creating an evolution from supply chains to “supply ecosystems.”

New Smeal College Administrative Unit to Focus on Instructional Design, Online and Hybrid Course Delivery 24 Sep

The Penn State Smeal College of Business has created a new administrative unit dedicated to instructional design. Led by Charles H. Whiteman, John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal, the eLearning Design and Innovation Group (eLDIG) will be charged with assisting faculty with the design of new online courses as well as converting existing course content to an online format.

EY CEO and Global Chairman Emphasizes Risk-Taking, Optimism in Building Career Success 23 Sep

EY’s global chairman and CEO, Mark Weinberger, spoke to a full audience at the Penn State Smeal College of Business today, as part of the college’s Executive Insights series.

More Recent News... More Recent News...