For Devin Weakland, placing third with her team at the University of Southern California’s Marshall International Case Competition was “icing on the cake.”
Weakland (senior-marketing and journalism) — along with team members Ben Pugh (senior-actuarial science), Nick Fakelmann (senior-accounting) and Samantha Jarmul — competed against students from 30 top-ranked international and national business schools during the weekend of Feb. 15.
The team, led by adviser and Assistant Professor of Business Administration Andy Gustafson, received the highest honor of any other national business school that competed, trailing runner-up Singapore Management University and winning school University of British Columbia.
Having slept for only two hours, the team members were “running off of adrenaline as the competition went further on,” Weakland said. But, she said that overall, they felt prepared by their core business classes and co-op experiences.
During the competition, each team was presented with a case study that posed the question: “How would Owens & Minor Inc. — a very successful supply chain solutions provider of medical and surgical supplies — extract the greatest value out of their recent European acquisition?” The students’ job was to then create a business strategy, implementation plan and financial return analysis in less than 24 hours and present it to a judging panel, Gustafon said via email.
Gustafson, who has served as the adviser for Penn State’s traveling team since 1999, said when choosing the four members of the team each year, he strives for balance. He said he typically tries to have at least one finance major, one marketing major and one supply chain major.
This year, Gustafson reached out to professors and students to help him find team members and eventually ended up with a team that he said, “not only had good base balance, but good team harmony as well.”
Gustafson then focused his attention on preparing the team members for the competition by exploring old cases and by having them outline the speech they would make for it. When it comes to the actual competition, Gustafson had zero contact with the team, ultimately leaving it up to the students to get the job done.
And some of the team members, including Jarmul (senior-supply chain and information systems), said they were thankful for being given the opportunity to represent Penn State and to meet students from all over the world.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said, adding that she “wore blue and white proudly.”
From past years, Penn State has proven its credibility at the competition, Gustafson said.
“I don’t have an official count, but I know our track record is [one] of the strongest,” he said.
And with the success of this competition, some Smeal professors are looking at other competitions for students to attend, which include possible global competitions.
Jarmul said she believes competitions like these are what business students need to be attending, adding that “this is the direction business is going… the world is flat.”