International Challenge Allows MBA Students To Excel

Juggling studies, jobs and, for some, family needs this fall, five MBA students in Professor Bill Averyt’s business policy class became living proof of the maxim: If you want something done, give it to a busy person. They received no extra credit for the months of preparation that culminated in seven days of grueling competition against the best of their peers, but Team UVM members say they would gladly do it again. Competing in the Concordia University John Molson School of Business MBA International Case competition in Montreal — the oldest and largest challenge of its kind — left them exhausted but exhilarated. “It wears a bit on personal life,” says Thad Omand, who is the controller at Hallam Associates, “but it was a phenomenal experience.” Four students formed the team that faced top MBA students from 29 other competing universities from around the world: Neil Chartier, a full-time student working three jobs; Teresa Montemayor, a marketing manager at IBM; Philipp von Schickfus, a full-time, scholarship student from Germany; and Omand. A fifth, Agam Sheth, a project engineer with pharmaceutical firm Mylan Technologies, was the alternate with the full-time job of coaching the group during the Jan. 6-11 business bout. For five preliminary rounds of case presentations, the UVM team impressed judges with their abilities and team work and came out first each time, topping fine teams from Sweden, Finland, Germany, New Zealand and Canada. “The biggest challenge,” Sheth says, “was probably overcoming the fear of the unknown. … We did not realize our potential going into the competition, (but) after winning the first three rounds unanimously … we knew we could win the whole thing.” By the end of semi-finals, it looked like they might. UVM’s was the only American team in the final round, where contest rankings become meaningless. You might enter as the Serena Williams of MBA-land, but you could well be surprised by spoiler Jennifer Capriati on a very good day. The point of the competition, according to Molson’s Dean Jerry Tomberlin, is “to bridge the gap between corporate and academic worlds,” benefiting both students and executives. Senior business execs judge each round, assessing teams on “creativity, insight and real work applicability of their presentations.” The final case study was real — an Irish bank that had too quickly expanded globally and then retreated was seeking to define its competitive advantage and position in a global market. UVM placed third, behind the University of Laval and York University, both in Canada. Proud of their week’s work, von Schickfus offers his analysis of the final outcome: “After a hard week, with up to eight hours preparations and presentations per day, we were so eager to win the final that we were less willing to take risks in our approach. Therefore, our recommendation in the final, in my opinion, was too conservative.” All the students agreed that exhaustion played a role, too. The intensity of the contest “may be artificial,” Chartier says, “but it mirrors the fast paced atmosphere in most of the business world.” He adds, that it also “allows the students to connect the dots from all of their classroom experiences into a coherent solution to the cases presented.” Montemayor agrees and says that such competitions, also expose students “to different approaches to the same problem that they may not encounter in their program.” She and the others rate highly the new relationships built with students and faculty from other countries. Sheth says, “This competition was a major way to network across borders.”-Press Release