Author: Jim Kvicala
Contact: Hakeem Rufai
Contact: Melenie Lankau

Published

ATHENS, Ga. — For the third consecutive year, Terry College of Business MBA students finished among the top three teams competing in the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) National Student Case Competition, held September 29-30 in Atlanta.

Deirdra Glover, Hakeem Rufai and Tiffane Thompson — all second-year students in the University of Georgia's full-time MBA program — finished in third place out of a field of nearly 30 MBA student teams, netting the team $9,000 in scholarship money and two trophies (one for reaching the semifinals and the other for making the finals).

Sponsored by the DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund, the competition included some of the most highly ranked business schools in the country, including MIT, Northwestern, Virginia, Emory, Texas, North Carolina and Purdue.

After the first round of presentations, six teams were chosen as finalists: Columbia University, Hampton University, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, University of Stellenbosch (South Africa) and the University of Georgia team.

Ultimately, first place was awarded to the University of Stellenbosch team, whose appearances at the competition have been sponsored by the DaimlerChrysler's Corporation Fund for the past seven years. Second place went to the Hampton University team, first-place winners of the National Urban League Business Case Competition held in June.

"We are very proud of our team and grateful for all the faculty members and staff who provided them with support, feedback and advice," said Anne Cooper, assistant director of Terry's MBA Program.

Each team in the competition received the details of the case a month prior to the competition. This year's case focused on the fate of an ailing minority-owned automotive parts supplier. Students were asked to address the challenges facing a just-in-time parts supplier in danger of bankruptcy due to competition from a Chinese supplier with significantly lower labor costs, declining automotive vehicle production and other hurdles.

The teams were judged on the feasibility of their recommendation, quality of their content analysis, the custom solutions they provided and their presentation styles.

Team member Deirdra Glover said most of the time leading up to the contest was spent doing hours of research and analysis, with the final days devoted to honing the presentation they would make to the judges.

"We were pretty confident in our solution," said Glover, "but timing is very critical."

The Terry MBAs had to do all their preparations for the competition in addition to keeping up with their regular coursework and their other obligations outside the classroom.

For team member Hakeem Rufai, preparation for the contest coincided with his observance of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a period of prayer and fasting during which he consumes no food or drink during daylight hours. No matter how late he studied, he was up each morning before sunrise to pray and eat a meal.

"It was challenging, but it ultimately worked out," he said.

It was Rufai who, as an alternate on last year's Terry NBMBAA team, helped prepare the case that ultimately won first place in the 2005 contest, and he led this year's team, briefing his fellow team members on what to expect both before and during the competition.

"After last year's case competition, I knew the ropes," he said. "That experience alone was invaluable."

Among those assisting the team in readying for the contest were first-year MBA student and team alternate, Kimberly Scott, whom Rufai singled out for special credit. "Our team alternate, especially, was the best we could hope for," he said. Like Rufai, Scott will likely lead the 2007 MBA team at the next competition after observing and assisting this year's team.

Also critical to the team's success was its faculty advisor, management professor Melenie Lankau, as well as a host of other Terry faculty and staff who also contributed time and expertise to help the Terry team perfect its presentation, Rufai said.

Glover said the case competition was something of a pressure cooker, requiring the team to plan and execute in a relatively brief amount of time, but it also was a great learning opportunity.

"It was compressed, but a great experience, and I think it's one we all appreciate," said Glover.

Rufai said he was actually in the middle of interviewing with DaimlerChrysler at the conference when the results of the contest were announced.

"My interviewer shook my hand and hugged me," he said.

The NBMBAA National Student Case Competition was conducted concurrently with the 28th annual NBMBAA Conference and Exposition, held September 26-October 1 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

Established in 1992, the case competition was initiated to increase student participation and interaction at the annual NBMBAA conference, as well as to give corporations an additional venue to recruit top MBA talent while helping to support the goals of the association.

The participating MBA teams are given identical business cases at the same time and in judged competition present their solutions as a demonstration of their problem-solving skills, analytical proficiency and presentation abilities. DaimlerChrysler Corp. has fully sponsored the annual NBMBAA case competition since 1995.