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The Texas Two-Step

USC Marshall wins Second Place in UT Austin McCombs National Women’s Case Competition

April 09, 2018
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A team of senior USC Marshall School of Business students took second place in the second annual National Women’s Case Competition, hosted by the University of Texas, Austin McCombs School of Business April 5-7.

It was the first time USC Marshall had participated in the competition.

“Placing second in this national case competition in Marshall’s first year of participation speaks to our students’ strengths—particularly their readiness and professionalism,” said Julia Plotts, associate professor of clinical finance and business economics.

The team, all in the class of 2018, included Madelyn Merchant, Raquel Buscaino, Sixing (Serena) Tang and Harshini Chengareddy.

“Their ideas were different from any of the other finalist teams as was their ensemble presentation style. They made Marshall look great.” -- Shannon Faris, assistant dean of institutional research and academic administration, USC Marshall

The students were hand-picked by Plotts from her financial analysis and valuation class and from Professor of Management and Organization Carl Voigt’s global strategy class.

“All four students are leaders who are self-aware, intellectually curious and hard-working,” said Plotts. “None of them knew each other before the competition. It was like we started with a blank slate—but we identified their strengths and weaknesses quickly and they worked well together right from the start.”

Students were charged with proposing solutions for how the Shell Company could increase sales of its synthetic lubricant while also reducing its emissions. The event was sponsored by Shell, The Boston Consulting Group and the McCombs Parents Council.

“This team of graduating senior women were fantastic from start to finish,” said Shannon Faris, assistant dean of institutional research and academic administration for the Marshall School, who accompanied the team to Texas. “Their ideas were different from any of the other finalist teams as was their ensemble presentation style. They made Marshall look great.”

The competition drew teams from 13 universities, including USC’s Marshall School; McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin; the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania; the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, Bloomington; the Smeal College of Business at Penn State; Miami University’s Farmer School of Business; NYU’s Stern School of Business; Michigan’s Ross School of Business; Mays Business School at Texas A&M; Olin Business School at Washington University, St. Louis; the Foster School of Business, University of Washington, Seattle; Boston College’s Carroll School of Management; and the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon.

Growing Networks

“A big part of the case competition, apart from doing the case itself, was meeting a huge group of smart, motivated women from other schools,” said team member Buscaino. “The network we take away from this experience is just exceptional.”

In 2015, McCombs alumni created the first women-only case competition in response to what they saw as a consistent skewed gender ratio in case competitions—that while 50 percent of business students are women, only 29 percent of case competition participants are women.

The University of Washington won first place, while Texas A&M won third.