A Winning Program

Rigorous preparation gives USC Marshall MBA students the competitive edge in national case competitions

October 11, 2016

USC Marshall MBA students won first-place titles in two national case competitions over the weekend of Oct. 8-9, in an auspicious start for the school’s newly revised Marshall Case Competition Program (MCCP).

Marshall MBA student teams took first place in the Reaching Out (ROMBA) MBA Case Competition in Dallas, while another team won the national MBA Deloitte Human Capital case competition in Nashville.

“Case competitions give our MBA students the opportunity to ‘learn by doing’ and to demonstrate their mastery of business functionalities under a high-pressure deadline,” said Suh-Pyng Ku, vice dean of graduate programs and professor of clinical finance and business economics. “Thanks to their focus and hard work, our students continue to stand out.”

While USC Marshall has always supported its case competition teams, this year it has codified its efforts into a program available to all students.  

“By creating this program we’re saying that as a school we recognize the strong value add of case competition preparation and experience,” said Tonisha Jester, associate director of MBA student programs. “It’s not enough to be competent—you have to show mastery.”

Students partake in a series of eight workshops parsing every element of a case competition, followed by intensive coaching by faculty, second-year students and even alumni. The training is in addition to the regular course-load expected of MBA students.

“By connecting our competition teams to alumni, professors and functional and industry experts in the student clubs, we create a culture of collaboration and shared success,” said Michael Kohl MBA ’17, who is serving this year as head coach for the MCCP. “These early results prove that by fully leveraging the power of the Trojan family, our case competition teams can deliver superior results.”

Show don’t Tell

Case competitions are key recruiting opportunities, said Elaine Sommers, senior associate director, MBA Career Resource Center.  “Companies host these competitions so they can see business schools in action.”   

Judges at a competition hosted by Paramount Pictures last year were so impressed they offered every student on the team a full-time job or internship opportunity, she said. Google made job offers to several members of last year’s Global Consulting Challenge team as well.

“The most valuable part of the competition is that you receive direct feedback from Deloitte practitioners about your team, your presentation skills, and your analytical thinking,” said Elise Yang MBA ’17, a member of this year’s team who also competed the previous year. “It's also a great way to meet people from other schools, network with Deloitte practitioners, and put your skills to the test.”

The Competition

L-R: George Wu, Deloitte judge, Elise Yang, Stephanie Harnett, Angeline Paik, Erica Gates

USC Marshall placed first next to Cornell and UCLA for the $10,000 prize in the Deloitte Human Capital case competition. Team members included: George Wu, Elise Yang, Stephanie Harnett, Angeline Paik and Erica Gates. The team was coached by Byron Swartz MBA ’17.

Another team of MBA students on the winning Reaching Out team were V. Claire Jadulang and Jessica Ayers. The team was coached by Dominique Shipley MBA ’17.

USC Marshall will be competing in the National Black MBA case competition the weekend of Oct. 15-16.