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Case by Case: Krannert students compete to win

Friday, December 8, 2017


A growing number of Krannert undergrads and master’s students are recording top marks for their analytical and communication skills with a string of victories in recent business plan competitions. 

A staple at b-schools worldwide, case competitions require students to analyze a business case in brief time frames and present their solutions to a group of judges representing industry-leading corporations, offering numerous opportunities for those involved. The competitions showcase students’ abilities to work with teams, present information and generate insights while also preparing themselves for successful careers.

The current winning streak began at the Conexus Indiana Logistics Case Competition held Oct. 18-20 in Indianapolis, where undergraduates Lawson Drury, Shane Flanagan, Parker Campbell and Josh Groh prevailed over teams from 17 other colleges and universities and walked away with a first-place, $5,000 cash award and a three-day experience with the state’s top logistics industry executives committed to developing talent to fuel Indiana's position as the "Crossroads of America."

MBA students Mike Hanson, Christine Rasquinha, Swathi Veeradhi and Randy Wang then scored Krannert’s second-consecutive victory at the annual Purdue-Indiana IT/Analytics Case Competition held Oct. 26-27 at IU’s Kelley School of Business. With guidance from the Business Information and Analytics Center (BIAC), as well as support from Leadership Communications Studio (LCS), the team focused on developing a strategic growth plan for a startup company that produces camera accessories.

Using information from 39 spreadsheets with 1,000 rows of data, the Krannert team divided tasks based on their individual areas of expertise and then merged their work together to present a comprehensive set of solutions to the judges. With time for only one rehearsal, the students bested their rivals from Kelley’s Institute for Business Analytics for the $2,000 cash prize.

Next up was the inaugural Healthcare Analytics Case Competition on Nov. 8-9 in Houston, sponsored by Humana Inc. and the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. More than 300 master’s students representing 109 teams from 19 major universities in the U.S. had to analyze more than 900 variables to predict the likelihood of a newly-diagnosed Type II diabetes patient with a Medicare Advantage health plan being admitted to an inpatient facility and then readmitted within a year.

Krannert’s team from the MS in Business Analytics and Information Management (BAIM) program ultimately prevailed, earning students Hongxia Shi, Shenyang Yang and Xiangyi Che a $6,000 first-place prize.

The crowning jewel came at the annual Kelley-Krannert Undergraduate Case Competition, which rotated back to Purdue University in 2017 and was held Nov. 11-12 in Rawls Halls. Competing against multiple teams from both schools, sophomores Katelyn Arrowsmith, Tiffany Zheng, Eesha Patel and Meagan Cooper brought the trophy back to the Krannert School.

The recipe for these recent successes includes numerous ingredients, beginning with Krannert’s growing focus on business analytics and ongoing commitment to ensure that what students learn in the classroom can be applied experientially in a real-world setting.

“Case competitions are like miniature internships that allow you to work in different industries for a few hours or days,” says 3+2 student Christine Rasquinha, a veteran of numerous undergraduate case competitions who earned her BS in industrial management in 2017 while also completing her first year in Krannert’s full-time MBA program. “These experiences develop transferable skills in communication, optimization, team work and quick thinking that can be used in any business occupation.”

Josh Groh, a junior majoring in finance and management who was part of Krannert’s winning team at the Conexus Indiana Logistics Case Competition, echoes Rasquinha’s assessment. "Case competitions are amazing opportunities to hone skills learned in the classroom and apply them to real-world situations,” he says. “Nowhere else can you combine such a wide variety of skills into a comprehensive final product."

Preparation is another key, says Groh, who currently serves as president and chief events officer for the LCS Case Community, a wing of the Leadership Communication Studio under the direction of Melissa Evens that helps Krannert bring its best talent to business case competitions. Much of that preparation is done through internal competitions such as STAMINA4, which allow the winning teams to advance to outside competitions including the annual contests between Purdue and IU.

Students aren’t the only ones to profit from case competitions, adds Krannert alumnus Peter Clyne (BSM ’83), a longtime Lockheed Martin executive who currently serves senior vice president of corporate development at Leidos. He first connected to the school’s case community through a Purdue Day of Giving donation, and has since contributed time as a judge and recruited other donors and coaches.

“The art of persuasion, logical thinking, financial analysis, clear communication, business acumen, teamwork and presentation skills are all brought to bear in the cases,” Clyne says. “Students who can hone these skills in a case competition can more easily apply them in the workplace, where careers are often built on a string of work assignments that bear many similarities to case studies.

“It’s as much a learning experience for the participating companies as it is for the students. While the judges don’t endure the stress of competing, we’re frequently surprised at how the students approach a business challenge from a perspective that’s very different from our own. Whether it’s their creative use of technology and social media, their collaborative efforts, or their generation’s idealism, the most successful teams often leave the judges thinking about their business from a new angle.”

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