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Smeal MBAs Place Second in National Case Competition

A team of second-year MBA students at the Penn State Smeal College of Business took home second place in the National Student Case Competition held at the National Black MBA Association's (NBMBAA) annual conference and exposition on Oct. 6-7 in Atlanta.
October 17, 2011
Smeal MBAs Place Second in National Case Competition

Team members Lucas de Brito (front row middle), Sofia Teixeira (fourth from right) and Biko Taylor (second from right) after the case competition with several of the Penn State alumni and faculty in attendance.

A team of second-year MBA students at the Penn State Smeal College of Business took home second place in the National Student Case Competition held at the National Black MBA Association's (NBMBAA) annual conference and exposition on Oct. 6-7 in Atlanta.

The competition included teams from about 25 of the nation's top business schools, including Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Emory University's Goizueta Business School.

About a month prior to the competition, the teams received their case, which challenged them to develop a program to recruit and retain talent at Chrysler, the case competition's sponsor since 1995. Each team had to prepare a 20-minute presentation of its case to present to a panel of business executives, who then had 10 minutes to ask follow-up questions. Teams were judged on their analysis of the case, the feasibility of their recommendations and the quality of their presentations.

The Smeal team of Lucas de Brito, Biko Taylor and Sofia Teixeira advanced out of the first round of group competition against teams from the University of Alabama, Duke and Winston-Salem State University. Around 9:30 the next morning, they were back in a conference room delivering their presentation to a new set of judges. In the finals, they went up against Bentley University, Florida A&M University, the University of Georgia, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Tennessee.

Following their final presentation, the defense of their case went so smoothly that the judges dismissed them with a minute left on the clock to ask questions. That minor detail coupled with the impromptu job interviews Chrysler offered them gave them confidence that they were going to place in the top three.

"As soon as we finished our defense, an HR rep from Chrysler approached us," Taylor explained. "She said we were perfect examples of the type of people they were looking to recruit and retain in the case that we just completed. Within a couple of hours, all three of us interviewed for jobs at Chrysler."

And these weren't the only job interviews taking place during the competition. Throughout the contest's two days, de Brito, Taylor and Teixeira had to balance their intense case preparation with several interviews with companies attending the annual NBMBAA conference.

The competition's winners were announced at a luncheon following the final round of competition on Oct. 7. A large contingent of Penn State alumni in attendance at the conference had gathered in the ballroom to hear the results and erupted into cheers when the second place finish was announced. Florida A&M took first place and Georgia came in third. De Brito, Taylor and Teixeira brought home some trophies and split between them the second place prize of $15,000.

Taylor largely credits the team's success to the chemistry between the members. "We spent so much time together in the month leading up to the competition and it got pretty stressful at times," he said. "But we were able to overcome any conflicts quickly because we got along so well."

Teixeira agreed. "We really enjoyed the process of working with each other, which was good because we were putting in 10-hour days preparing on beautiful, sunny, fall Saturdays in the Business Building while everyone else was outside tailgating. If we didn't like each other, we would have been miserable and not nearly as productive."

The diversity of their academic backgrounds also helped them in the preparation process. De Brito was the financial guy, Taylor covered management, and Teixeira has a marketing focus. "We were able to really challenge each other as we were prepping our case, forcing us to defend our decisions," Teixeira added. "We'd ask, 'Does this make sense marketing wise?' or 'Is this financially feasible?'"

The team also bounced ideas off of a handful of Smeal MBA alumni, current Smeal Executive MBA students and faculty members in the Smeal MBA Program. In particular, Andy Gustafson, director of the MBA Communications Program, critiqued their presentation, and professors Dennis Gioia, Donald Hambrick, John Jordan and Chris Muscarella provided feedback on some of their business ideas.

Now that the competition is behind them, the team members all have big plans for their $5,000 in winnings. Teixeira is going to use the money on a long-awaited trip to Italy. Taylor is going to put his to use during the MBA service immersion week with a possible trip to volunteer in Haiti. And de Brito? He's going to use his to pay his rent.

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