Play for Notre Dame

Author: Mendoza College

Play for Notre Dame

The varsity sport of MBA programs is the case competition.

That’s where teams of students compete to devise the best solution to a business problem. Winning requires intelligence, teamwork, the ability to change tactics on the fly, and composure in the face of a relentless ticking clock. Just like in sports.

And just like Notre Dame’s intercollegiate athletics teams, the ND MBA program has a tradition of winning against the best. Between 2008 and 2011 Notre Dame defeated 16 different top-20 MBA programs.

Just last month, Notre Dame went up against Cornell, George Washington, Brigham Young, William & Mary and Colorado-Boulder and won the BYU Innovation in Social Entrepreneurship Case Competition. The contest challenged students to devise ways for an international-development nonprofit, Community Enterprise Solutions, to scale its operations.

Community Enterprise Solutions consigns products to entrepreneurs (mostly women), who then travel to remote villages to sell them. The entrepreneurs don’t have to pay for the products until they sell them. The model helps two ways: Entrepreneurs can build their own businesses with little or no startup capital, and the remote areas gain access to needed goods like eyeglasses and water-filtration systems.

To help the organization scale, the Notre Dame team of first-year MBAs Andrea Caldwell, Charles Florance, Patrick Murphy and James Falbe suggested it launch a fellowship program to bring in graduate students and corporate talent and that it create a toolkit so any company can learn how to leverage the model.

Caldwell said she thinks her team won because it presented a unique, well-laid-out solution with a clear roadmap. And they nailed the presentation.

“Greg Van Kirk, the co-founder of [Community Enterprise Solutions] literally said that our presentation skills were ‘ridiculous’ – a little generous, but we were very flattered.”

She said the competition appealed to her and her teammates because they were all interested in entrepreneurship, social responsibility and international development.

Not all case competitions focus on social entrepreneurship. Others challenge with problems ranging from consulting to marketing to finance. The competitions give students the chance to hone real-world business skills like analysis and presentation. A student-run organization, the MBA Case Committee, coordinates participation.

Here are three other prestigious case competitions in which Notre Dame has triumphed since last fall:

Arthur W. Page Society Case Study CompetitionFirst, Second and Third Prizes - Business Category (February 2012)
Hosted by The Arthur W. Page Society in alliance with the Institute for Public Relations

Duke (Fuqua) Finance Club Case Competition
First Place (November 2011)
Hosted by Duke in Raleigh, NC and judged by a panel of investment bankers

National Association of Women MBAs Case Competition
First Place (September 2011)
Hosted by NAWMBA Conference in Dallas; sponsored by OMNI Hotels.
Competitors included University of Chicago and University of Texas at Dallas.