Category Archives: MBA

Foster MBAs win corporate growth case competition

Four MBA students from the University of Washington Michael G. Foster School of Business won the international finals of the Associate for Corporate Growth (ACG) case competition, March 21 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The event was designed to give MBAs valuable insights into mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, financial advisory and private equity. The Foster School team—Nick Casaril, Erick Rendon, Rhett Baldwin and Robert Belcher—presented the most compelling strategic advice on a realistic merger and acquisition case. In the simulation, the team advised a private equity group on whether a potential acquisition was a good value, and at what price, and how best to structure a deal that would be acceptable to both buyers and sellers.

Competition included Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, Whitworth University and University of Calgary, with the Foster School clearly best in show. Said judge Luke Fouke, senior vice president of Seattle-based Net Lease Holdings: “The level of analysis and thought-provoking recommendations that the students presented really goes to show the excellence of the Foster School of Business’ curriculum.”

The victory earned the team the first International AGC Cup, a prize of $10,000 Canadian, and the proverbial much, much more.

“The entire competition was an enriching experience that provided great insight to some of the activities and challenges that actual practitioners of the craft face in the real world,” said Casaril. “Everything from analyzing and crafting the deal to the ‘bake-off’ at the end to sell the deal was incredibly engaging. I know I learned an incredible amount that will be immensely valuable as I embark on my future career.”

Big weekend: Foster School brings home three case competition victories

Student teams representing the University of Washington Michael G. Foster School of Business won three separate case competitions—in Montreal, Cleveland and Washington, DC—on the same day this past weekend, Saturday, February 28.

KeyBank-Ohio State University Minority Case CompetitionA team of Foster MBAs triumphed at the KeyBank-Ohio State University Minority Case Competition in Cleveland. Evening MBAs Bryan Tomlinson and Rina Sarkar and full-time MBAs Hakim Jones and Kathleen August delivered the most compelling plan to increase KeyBank’s market share in the small business banking market, and added a set of tactics to empower managers to implement this plan. In doing so, they outwitted teams from the University of Chicago, Indiana University, Ohio State, Yale, Carnegie Mellon and 15 other top business schools. August was awarded “Best Presenter” for the competition. Jones won “Best Q&A” honors.

“This is another wonderful demonstration of the Foster MBA model—great students, talented faculty, and a curriculum designed to offer transformative experiences in strategic thinking and leadership,” said Dan Turner, associate dean for masters programs and executive education. “It all adds up to innovative, strategic solutions for businesses facing complex, unstructured, real world-problems.”

Hilltop Business Strategy ChallengeUndergraduates from the Foster School took top honors at the Business Strategy Challenge at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. The team of Ray Phua, Olivia Miasik, Stephanie Payne and Rikki Johnson weighed an unconventional not-for-profit case, stretching their knowledge of business strategy into a new arena. The conundrum was how best to guide the United Way through the economic crisis. The Foster team’s solution: form partnerships with healthy, like-minded organizations such as the Gates Foundation in the short-term and reorganize internally to better influence legislation for the long-term. The top-flight competition—including Georgetown, USC, New York University, Northwestern and Carnegie Mellon—couldn’t match the Foster team.

“The fact that we had the opportunity to present our recommendations to actual representatives of United Way and know that what we proposed would be considered seriously and possibly be implemented was all the more motivating and very gratifying in the end,” said Miasik, a senior studying accounting and international business at the Foster School. “I think our great team dynamic was key to formulating a successful deliverable for United Way.”

John Molson Undergraduate Case CompetitionAnother team of Foster undergrads won the John Molson Undergraduate Case Competition at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. The Molson competition was as much a test of stamina as of strategy. The Foster team–Vanessa Lopez, Derrick Nation, Eric Appesland and Susan Dugal (named “Best Presenter” for the competition)—gamely navigated three introductory lightning-round cases that had to be analyzed without the aid of the Internet or any notes, books or other reference materials. The final round was a more traditional, 24-hour “live” case involving the future plans for Montreal’s working waterfront. The Foster team recommended moving shipping facilities to a new, larger site to increase capacity, while turning the Old Port into an elaborate draw for tourism.

This solution, complete with an artist’s rendition of the “new” Old Port, distanced the Foster team from a world-class field representing universities in Canada, China, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore and the United States. “Our team was complimented on their strategy and performance,” said Jennifer Kitchen, coordinator of student development at the Foster School. “The panel of judges included the director of operations for the Montreal Port Authority who said that he would have no reservations about bringing our team’s recommendations and implementation plan to his board of directors. That’s high praise.”

UW Foster MBAs take second at East-West All-Star Challenge

East-West MBA all Star Challenge 2009
The UW Foster School of Business East-West MBA All-Star Case Challenge team (L-R): Ming Fan (faculty advisor), George Zhu, Megan Armstrong, Martin Wilson, Nathan Kolmodin.

A team of MBA students from the University of Washington’s Michael G. Foster School of Business tied for second place at the 2009 East-West MBA All-Star Case Challenge held in Beijing January 5-6.

Sixteen teams representing 12 elite universities in China, Singapore, South Korea and the United States participated in this invitation-only competition, organized jointly by Microsoft and Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business.

The Foster School team – full-time MBAs Martin Wilson and Nathan Kolmodin and evening MBAs George Zhu and Megan Armstrong – finished behind only the University of Chicago in the “compete” phase of the event. This phase was the culmination of six weeks of work to conceptualize a new, scalable mobile service and marketing campaign to support Microsoft’s Imagine Cup or DreamSpark programs. Imagine Cup encourages young people to create technology innovations that can make a difference in the world. DreamSpark provides free development and design software to millions of college students across the globe.

Real-world challenge
By design, the competition offered challenging real-world conditions. “We wanted to leverage the current economic downturn to give participants a taste of some of the scenarios they could encounter in the real world – budget cuts, changes in project parameters, increased expectations on return to investment – and help the students see that innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat,” said Pradeep U.N., director of the Microsoft Firenze program.

The Foster plan was a localized version of Imagine Cup that seeks to reach a larger, younger, more diverse segment by appealing to less tech-savvy students who might otherwise feel intimidated by the challenge.

Student teamwork and raw skill makes a difference
Following the “compete” phase, participants were shuffled into eight inter-school teams to create a new solution that addressed the same scenario in short order. Kolmodin’s mixed team placed second in the “collaborate” phase, earning $10,000 from Microsoft to implement its proposal. He says he earned much more from the experience.

“The ‘compete’ phase allowed us to focus on honing the skills we are developing in an academic environment,” he said, “where the ‘collaboration’ phase enhanced the experience by giving us the opportunity to seek synergies across cultures since we needed to implement our idea without regard to borders, geographical restrictions and cultural differences.”

“The competition was taxing, exhilarating and led to relationships that can only be created within a crucible-like situation.”

The Foster team was advised by Ming Fan, an assistant professor of information systems, and Elizabeth Stearns, a senior lecturer in marketing. Foster MBAs brought home the grand prize from the inaugural East-West MBA All-Star Case Challenge in 2008, with their winning plan to market Chinese-brewed Tsingtao Beer in the US.

Reunion gifts becoming tradition

Class giftFoster leaves a lasting impression. Alumni don’t just walk away with a degree. They walk away with the experience of a lifetime…and a lifelong commitment to the School.

That’s why the MBA class of 1980 celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2005 by pooling funds to make a combined gift of over $37,000—more than double the total of individual gifts made the class the year before.

Since then other classes have followed suit. In every case, the collective totals have exceeded the amounts of previous years.

Although Foster structures the giving campaign, alumni like Coreen Nickerson (MBA 1996) and Kevin Scharpenberg (MBA 2006) pitch in to add their personal touch that makes the giving much more generous.

Kevin said of his work to collect donations back in 2006: “In two years with 100-plus classmates, you develop a pretty tightly knit community.” He believed the class gift would connect the alumni to each other as much as it would connect them to the School. It also helped them give back to the community that supported and challenged them during their two intense years in the program.

Coreen continues to be involved with reunions and soliciting donations because she still feels so connected to her class: “I had such a good experience that it”s an easy way to continue to enjoy that experience.”

Just as Foster leaves a lasting impression, a class donation leaves a lasting legacy, one that benefits future MBA classes, and continues to unite alumni with each other and the School.