SEMO business students take third place in international case study contest

Monday, April 21, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ Southeast Missouri State seniors Scott Price, from left, Nicole Gemoules, Callie Carter and Jennifer Koenig traveled to Coventry, England, with Dr. Willie Redmond for an international business competition earlier this month. They were photographed at the Harrison College of Business in Dempster Hall, under the ticker showing the day's stock tradings.

Four students about to graduate from Southeast Missouri State University's Harrison College of Business recently earned a prize that should burnish their collective resumes.

From April 6 to April 11, Nicole Gemoules and Jennifer Koenig, both accounting majors from Perryville, Mo., Callie Carter, an accounting major from Jonesboro, Ill., and Scott Price, a finance major from Sullivan, Mo., competed in the international case competition sponsored by the Network of International Business Schools.

During the competition in Coventry, England, the team, coached by Dr. Willie Redmond, took third place out of the 10 schools invited to take part and won three of its four preliminary head-to-head matchups.

"It was an amazing experience," Carter said. "Probably the best part of the whole thing was meeting kids from all across the world. We really didn't know how competitive it was going to be, and it was extremely competitive."

Southeast's team was the only one from the U.S. in the competition. It faced off against six European teams, including a group from the Helsinki, Finland, School of Economics, the eventual winner, and three Canadian teams, including Memorial University, the second-place finisher and the largest university in the Canadian Atlantic provinces.

In each round of the competition, teams were given a business scenario and three hours to come up with a solution and to prepare a half-hour presentation. In each head-to-head matchup, the teams divided 11 points.

The most stressful part of each round came as the deadline approached, Koenig said.

"When you are getting down to the end of the three hours and had to go out in two minutes, it was pretty stressful. It was kind of a big high and a big low at the same time."

For Redmond, sitting on the sidelines was difficult as the students were on their own in each case evaluation and presentation. In between, he said, he was offering advice and giving insights into the work done by other teams.

"Coaches, like us, can sit in on other presentations," he said. " [Students] really can't do that too much because they are working on their own cases."

After four rounds of competition, the Southeast team was in the semifinals. Its case study was of a bank doing business in South Africa that was struggling to make profits on accounts held by poorer people. While the bank was the leader in the market with 22.4 percent share, the problem was the profits. The Southeast team faced Memorial University's team in the semifinals, Price said. The Southeast team recommended several steps to increase market share in an effort to make money, including teaching children about banking in its school and looser requirements for opening an account. The Memorial team, which won the round on a 6-5 decision, recommended abandoning the market as untenable.

"They blew us away, that is to say the company we were analysing, with a 22.4 percent market share, should leave it totally," Price said. "What a shocker."

But more than the competition's details, each student said they came home with a favorable impression of the quality of the education they are receiving at Southeast, new friends that they hope to keep for life — one will visit the U.S. and Price in coming months — and more ideas about their future. "It has opened me up to travel more," Gemoules said. "It was my first time out of the country."

After graduation, the women in the group will be studying for their CPA exams and either begin working at jobs they have lined up or search for work. Price has accepted a graduate assistant post at Southeast and will begin work on his MBA in the fall.

And they have recommendations for a new class at Southeast that incorporates some of aspects of the competition. They learned, for example, that other schools teach a course in case study preparation. "I thought we were very well prepared for anything they could have given us," Carter said. "But there are things we had never practiced. But we rallied together. I think what we learned at school is very helpful, but the four of us want to talk to the dean about a class focused on this type of competition."

And, with their newly enhanced skills at presentation and preparation, they'll probably put on a convincing case.

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