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Paul Friga
Kelley School of Business

Anne Auer
Kelley School of Business

Last modified: Tuesday, February 21, 2006

IU Kelley students slide into first prize in case portion of national “Race & Case” competition

Indiana business schools win three of top four spots in case competition

Feb. 21, 2006

EDITORS: Photos are available by contacting Anne Auer at 812-855-6998 or

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- At the third annual Daniels Race & Case competition earlier this month, MBA students from 12 business schools across the nation competed for top honors in a slightly unusual way -- on the ski slopes in Denver. Three of the top four winning teams in the case competition were from Indiana.

Teams were judged separately for their performance on the slopes (worth 49 percent) and for their presentations in a competitive business setting (51 percent). A group of students from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business won first place in the case competition and finished eighth in skiing for an overall ranking of fourth place. Second prize in the case competition went to the University of Denver, while the third and fourth slots were filled by Notre Dame and Purdue, respectively.

Case competitions are to business school what moot court is to law school: they allow students to practice and demonstrate their "real-world" analytical and presentation skills while networking with executives, potential recruiters and their peers from other business schools. Since 1996, Kelley MBA program teams have placed in the top three in nearly 30 national case competitions.

First-year MBA student Gabriel Cohen, a member of IU's winning team, said preparation for the competition took six extra hours a week for about six weeks, "like doing an extra course," but that it was well worth the effort. "It was a chance to practice our presentation skills, network with students from other schools, and learn about corporate responsibility and business ethics. For this competition, we also had to have experience with skiing."

Race & Case was presented Feb. 9-12 by the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business and focused on managerial ethics in the corporate environment. Each team presented an analysis of Talisman Energy Inc.'s 1998 acquisition of the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co. Ltd., an association that was protested by groups around the nation who objected to Talisman's involvement in and supposed support for the civil-war-torn region of Sudan.

Teams were scored on their distinctive viewpoints, creativity of presentation, in-depth understanding of the case, key issues, and possibility of future government regulations, and the clarity of their resolution. The competition was judged by 14 business executives and entrepreneurs who played the part of board members from Talisman.

IU's winning team was composed of Cohen, Jen Campbell, Tyler Hacking, Tom Kirby, Craig Milham and Kristen Wagner, who argued that although the Sudanese investment had provided positive gains for Talisman, the company should sell their stake in the GNPOC while continuing to provide social support through donations and scholarships.

Part of the IU team's winning strategy was to meet twice a week leading up to the competition and allow team members to "own" their areas of expertise. The group decided on an outcome at the start, working backward through the logic of the argument. "I learned as much from watching other people's presentation styles as I learned about business ethics and how to develop a logical framework. We all complemented each other so well," Cohen said of his teammates. "I think we were unanimous in saying it was the best team experience we'd ever had."

Paul Friga, a clinical associate professor at the Kelley School, and other Kelley faculty members have helped the school increase its presence at case competitions around the globe by providing a structured plan for competition selection and preparation and putting together teams based on specific strength areas.

Friga, who also heads the school's Consulting Academy, is currently drafting a paper on why case competitions have proliferated in the past few years. "Putting our students in front of recruiters through case competitions is invaluable, not to mention the experience they gain by working on a project in a team, practicing their presentation skills, and demonstrating their ability to think on their feet. It's a great way for the judges of these competitions -- many of whom are tomorrow's recruiters -- to see what our students have to offer compared with students from other schools," Friga said.

In 2004, a group from Kelley won the global prize title in the prestigious A.T. Kearney's Global Prize Case Competition, beating out participants from Harvard School of Business and MIT, among other prestigious institutions. The Princeton Review has ranked the Kelley School No. 1 for "best quality" MBA teaching, and the MBA degree program has been a regular fixture in Business Week's top 20 programs.

Although preparing for the competition was time-consuming, Cohen said he plans to compete again next year in both the fall and spring semesters, including a return trip to the Race & Case. Taking first prize will be tougher next year, since officials are planning to expand the competition from 12 to 16 teams.

"We got along so well with some of the guys from Berkeley, we were joking about having a joint team next year, and they invited us to visit them in California," Cohen said about the University of California-Berkeley team, which placed sixth in skiing. "It went beyond networking -- we made real friendships."