University of Southern California

USC First Year MBA Students Win First USC-Notre Dame GE Case Competition
USC's Football Win Wasn’t the Only Victory in South Bend
October 23, 2009 • by News at Marshall

A team of five USC Marshall first year MBAs won the inaugural GE Case Competition on the University of Notre Dame campus. The two-school competition took place Friday, Oct. 16.

The competition, which is a competitive recruiting event for GE, is expected to continue annually between Notre Dame and USC MBA students. The two finalist teams are invited for first round interviews with GE for summer internships. Like the rival football competition, each year the winning case team takes home a plaque with a jeweled shillelagh.

Parth Shah, Prashant Kumar, Adithi Sampath, Abhinaya Sinha and Tatum Yount (all MBA '11) brought the plaque to USC, where it will stay until next year's competition on the University Park campus.

The competition, organized at Marshall by the MBA Career Service Office, invited first-year marketing students to tackle a strategic case for GE that centered on its EVO clean locomotive project.

Four Marshall faculty, Professor of Clinical Marketing Diane Badame, Assistant Professor of Clinical Management Communication Yolanda Kirk, Professor of Marketing Dennis Rook and Associate Professor of Clinical Management Communication Naomi Warren judged the 15 minute presentations from nine teams at Marshall and selected three teams to travel to South Bend to compete in the final competition at Notre Dame against three teams from Mendoza.

"The competition is an excellent way to showcase Marshall MBA students with a premiere company," said Badame, who prepared the students to compete. "I just can't tell you how impressed I am with the caliber and commitment of these students -- They're very bright quick on their feet and they are committed to capitalizing on every opportunity they can get at Marshall."

USC Marshall MBA Career Services Advisor Elaine Sommers, who organized and managed the competition for USC, accompanied the 15 semifinalists to South Bend. "The students were exceptional; they are all first years and have only been in school for a short amount of time. They performed beautifully and were very strong." she said.

The competition at Notre Dame was sponsored by GE's Experienced Commercial Leadership Program and aimed at determining the best market strategy for its Smart Technology Grid platform.

The Experienced Commercial Leadership Program is a global two-year post MBA leadership development program in which participants spend time in three 8-month rotations in different business fields. Additionally the program includes one month classroom training.

For the semifinal round, the six teams of competitors were given a case relevant to GE and each of the three 5-person teams from each university deliberated the problem during the morning and presented their solution to a panel of five judges in the afternoon.

The competition's case, written by GE Market Programming Manager Bernard Lecours, dealt with Smart Grid Technology and included a curve-ball question given on the day of the competition.

Two teams, one from USC and one from Notre Dame, were selected to compete in the final round. Each team delivered 15-minute presentations followed by a Q&A that was open to an auditorium filled with all of the finalist case team members, other Mendoza students and a panel of seven judges that included Notre Dame professor of strategy and entrepreneurship Jim Davis, GE Global Manager of Sales in Transmission and Distribution Mark Hura, GE Product Marketer Steve Richards, GE Executive Director for Global Marketing Steve Liguori and Berry Wiard of American Electric Power (AEP) in South Bend. GE is currently running a pilot program in South Bend with AEP.

Since several GE professionals and recruiters were present at the competition, it was also a valuable networking opportunity for participants. "From a recruiting standpoint, this is a great opportunity for us to see the best and the brightest competing," Pienkos said. "It felt really good to win," said Shah, a dual MBA/PharmD. candidate, who handled the presentation for the winning team in the final round.

"I felt like we were a little bit of an underdog and when we got the audible that played in our favor because we were able to think rapidly on the spot. We came up with our consensus in 10 minutes and spent the rest of the time rehearsing our presentation."

"It was exciting to compete on solving a real-world challenge and was a worthwhile learning experience," said Sampath, whose focus is marketing.

Kumar, who plans to concentrate in consulting and strategy added: "The competition was a lesson in teamwork and everyone is eager to host the Notre Dame students next year."

USC Marshall students also won two additional awards: Shah won the Best Q&A award and Robert Campbell, who was on one of the three finalist teams, won the award for Best Speaker.

"The winning team not only had a well thought out 360 degree approach to the case, but also fully understood the stakeholders and timeline," said Heidi Swymer of GE Capital and a current member GE's Experienced Commercial Leadership Program, who coordinated the event Friday. "Their presentation skills certainly put them over the top."

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.