October 04, 2001

Los Angeles — A team of second-year MBA students from UCLA Anderson claimed victory in the 2001 National Student Case Competition held at the annual conference of the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) in Orlando, Florida. This is the second win in the last four years for UCLA Anderson's team, having placed first at the same competition in 1998.

"We had a team of excellent presenters, but I was most proud of their analysis," said team advisor, David M. Porter, Jr., assistant professor in human resources and organizational behavior at UCLA Anderson. "The students really did an in-depth study of a difficult problem and arrived at a practical, implementable solution, which was tested from a variety of perspectives. Their answer was not immediately obvious, but when you see it, it makes a lot of sense."

Porter, who has supervised all of UCLA Anderson's teams since 1998, solicits recommendations for potential candidates from UCLA Anderson's African American Students in Management when choosing participants. He aims for diversity on all levels and an appropriate balance of areas of expertise to compose a well-rounded team. Professor David Lewin and Assistant Professor Olav Sorenson, also of UCLA Anderson, supported the team during the preparation process.

UCLA Anderson team members, including Logan Blake, Wesner Moise, Michael Rayfield and Erica Sanders, also cited their individual strengths and contributions to the group effort as key to their win. Sanders conceptualized overall strategy, Rayfield was their presentation/sales specialist, Moise focused on financial analysis, and Blake provided enthusiasm and in-depth research.

The NBMBAA's National Student Case Competition recruits MBA students from top-tiered business schools to apply their classroom knowledge to the solution of a real-world business problem in the form of a detailed case study. The competition attracts participants from business schools nationwide, and this year's 34 competitors included Duke University, University of Michigan, University of Southern California and Yale School of Management.

This year's case detailed the human resource challenges of a fictitious automotive parts manufacturer, reflecting classic concerns on the retention and recruitment of quality employees, issues that affect any organization. The solutions recommended by UCLA Anderson's team focused on leadership development, including existing employees, and creating a pipeline for senior executives within the company.

Winners were announced after a two-day competition involving a preliminary round to narrow the field to six finalists, who then advanced to the final round where the first, second and third prizes were determined. The competing teams prepared for four weeks to give a 15-minute presentation of their analysis and conclusions followed by a 30-minute question and answer session defending the proposed recommendations.

"There was no time to relax; we had to stay focused and were constantly refining our work," said Michael Rayfield, who anchored Anderson's presentation. "At the very end of the first day, they announced the finalists and ours was the last name called. The next day's finals were held in a much larger room with far more attendees. However, our first-place finish, again the final announcement at the awards banquet, made it all worthwhile."

Participants are evaluated on presentation skills, style, thoroughness and creativity by a panel of judges comprised of corporate executives and business school faculty. Judges represent Fortune 1000 companies such as Gap, Inc., Sears Roebuck, The Coca-Cola Company, Freddie Mac, Abbott Laboratories, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and the Walt Disney Company, as well as premiere business schools. Care is taken to ensure that judges are not aware of any group's institutional affiliation, and the preliminaries and finals each have separate and distinct judging panels.

The National Black MBA Association established the National Student Case Competition in 1992 as part of its mission to create economic and intellectual wealth for the African American community. The goal is to increase student participation in the association's annual conference and to provide a different venue for their corporate partners to recruit top MBA talent. In addition to the high-profile opportunity to showcase their knowledge and skills to potential employers, UCLA Anderson's group received a $12,000 scholarship award.

"The UCLA Anderson is not known for having a large African American community, but the honor of our group's achievement demonstrates its strength. We may be few in number, but we are very involved and supportive of each other," said team member Erica Sanders.

DaimlerChrysler has sponsored the NBMBAA's National Student Case Competition each year since 1995 and provides the annual case, which centers around a different business function each time. In response to their win, UCLA Anderson's group has been invited to visit DaimlerChrysler's headquarters in Detroit to present their findings to senior executives.

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