First-year MBAs win Cornell competition

Author: Carol Newswriting

A five-member team from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business finished in first place and won $6,000 in the recent HABLA Case Competition hosted by the Johnson School at Cornell University.

Margot Woolley, Keith Flatley, Gabriel Kacarab, Rohit Jacob and Clint Branam – all first-year master of business administration (MBA) students – competed against teams from six other schools during the competition on Nov. 9 and 10.

HABLA stands for Hispanic-American Business Leaders Association, a student club at the Johnson School. For the competition, the teams were assigned the task of studying how telecommunications company Embarq Corp. could best increase its market share in the rapidly growing Hispanic community.

The Notre Dame team made three recommendations during the 15-minute presentation, focusing primarily on leveraging Embarq’s existing partnerships with Dish Network and other technology services, Woolley said. She credits the victory to the group’s concentration on supplying practical implementation strategies for the recommendations.

“Other teams got slightly wrapped around the axel in their analysis,” agreed Branam. “We focused on the big picture. In the end, that seemed to be what Embarq was looking for – creative, insightful solutions they could actually implement. For me, that was a key take-away from the competition.”

Case study competitions typically task teams with analyzing an issue or problem at a major corporation. The team must arrive at a solution or recommendation within a very tight time frame and with no advance preparation. Case studies provide students with opportunities to develop problem-solving skills under pressure, using a real-world scenario.

The Mendoza team members spent an intense week before the competition researching Embarq and posing potential case scenarios. They also took advantage of the social events held prior to the competition to meet representatives from Embarq and glean information about the company. “The moment you hit the ground, you’re at the competition,” said Flatley. During the Friday cocktail party, team members spent time learning industry jargon from the telecom executives and later inserted it into their presentation

“The win speaks loudly about both the quality of students in our MBA program and the ability of the team to work effectively, efficiently and creatively under pressure,” said Edward J. Conlon, Mendoza’s associate dean of graduate programs.

New York University took second place. Other schools competing included Cornell, Carnegie-Mellon and Purdue Universities, and the Universities of Rochester and California, Berkeley.

Contact: Edward Conlon, associate dean, Mendoza College of Business, 574-631-7685 or