UB business students take first prize against tough competition
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 21:02
UB’s School of Management is ranked low when compared to overall MBA programs. But that didn’t stop four business students from taking first place in a consulting case competition early this month.
The University at Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business held the competition on Feb. 8. The Buffalo MBA Consulting group, made up of four UB graduate students, teamed up against four groups from Penn State, Case Western, Pittsburgh University and Carnegie Mellon. Through their separate skill sets and applied knowledge, UB’s team won a $4,000 prize – 20 percent of which was donated back to the consulting group.
“There are many factors that go into the rankings and sometimes the rankings just don’t reflect how well our students can do in the competitive marketplace,” said David Frasier, assistant dean and director of Graduate Programs in the School of Management.
Christopher Maugans, Mark Bortz, Ryan McGraw and Michelle Paia are all MBA students and members of the consulting group.
The teammates agreed they did not walk into the competition confident they would take first place.
“It looked like some pretty stiff competition,” Maugans said. “We were intimidated by some of the student’s biographies, but we put forth our analysis and we thought it was pretty good.”
Competitors were asked to analyze a business case about the energy industry and figure out the best way for the company to proceed in terms of technological progress as well as potential complications.
The team members said they took every bit of what they learned from UB and the consulting club, along with experience from previous competitions and gave it their best shot at coming up with their recommendations.
After hours of problem solving and discussion, they pitched their ideas and crossed their fingers.
“It’s important to do your homework before these competitions,” said David Ortiz, senior engineer at the RAND Corporation and one of the judges of the competition. “It’s not what you learned in business school, but understanding the key challenges and how business is done in this particular sector.”
The content of the energy industry was something UB’s team admits it wasn’t overly familiar with.
All teams were asked to propose a plan that would portray a practical resolution for any problems that could arise within the industry and an extensive knowledge on the application and ethics of business in general.
“I come from the sports world,” Bortz said. “I was confident of the skills within our group, but I didn’t know what to expect.”
With seven hours to work – each participant took on a different task and worked separately; their information – once pieced together – impressed the judges.
“The way we attacked the case was to diverge and converge,” McGraw said. “We each think about important items and things to accomplish, then we then compare notes and work out which strategy has the most data to support it.”
By breaking the case down into separate pieces, each teammate was able to show off their unique chemistry and extensive technical competence, according to Bortz.
“Chris focused on legality,” Bortz said. “Michelle focused on numbers, and Ryan and I worked on future projections.”
Their business knowledge and quick thinking was enough to solidify the judge’s final decision.
“UB was just over the top,” Ortiz said. “They just had more clear recommendations than the other teams.”
Donating $800 of their winnings back to the club “just made sense” because, without the organization, the team wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go.
Besides the physical payment, the participants walked away with permanent benefits, Frasiersaid.
“I think this win is going to have an indirect affect in terms of visibility for our program and confidence of prospective employers in the quality of our students. It’s obviously a great thing to have on their resumes whether it has a direct or indirect impact.”
Bortz said that regardless of whether you win or lose, if you have confidence in your abilities and do your best, you can’t ask for anything better.