First-Place SAM team presented at Celebrating Scholarship and Creativity Day
Fresh from a first-place finish in a national competition in Las Vegas, a CSB/SJU student team presented their award-winning case study during Celebrating Scholarship and Creativity Day April 25.
The SAM Student Case Study Competition was held March 29-April 1 during the Society for the Advancement of Management Conference.
The SAM team is part of an experiential learning program through the CSB/SJU global business leadership department (formerly known as the management department). The students learn how to conduct research and make strategic recommendations based on a case study. The interdisciplinary team members include Gavin Miller, John Burns and Laurel Kennedy in management, Caroline Haik in biology and Cole Schiffler in economics.
Steve Schwarz, adjunct assistant professor in global business leadership, has advised the SAM team for seven years and this year was joined by co-adviser Paul Marsnik, associate professor in global business leadership.
Intensive preparation for the competition began last fall when the students met with Schwarz to discuss strategic case analysis, learn how to conduct business research, and prepare for a professional presentation. Marsnik taught a session in his research area on creative brainstorming.
In January each competing school was sent a case study on the same company - Tesla Motors. Once the case study is announced, student teams must work independently as faculty advisers are not allowed to discuss the case study with them.
Haik relished the opportunity to work independently as a team.
"Being in SAM allowed us a chance to take an active independent role in our learning," she said. "It was up to us to organize, plan and prepare for this competition, and, although we all came from different academic backgrounds, each individual brought something unique and helpful to the group dynamics."
Schwarz said it was gratifying to see the team's hard work rewarded with a first-place finish.
"The CSB/SJU team excelled in their ability to think critically, gather research, strategically justify their recommendations and deliver a professional presentation," he said.
The team spent countless hours researching the company and learning everything they could about the electric vehicle industry, he said.
Kennedy at first felt rattled as the only junior among her senior teammates, but she said her teammates made her feel welcome.
"I couldn't have asked for a more determined, smart, fun and silly team to work with," Kennedy said.
Burns said he valued the overall learning experience.
"It was an experience of a life time," he said.
Early on, Schiffler had a good feeling about the team's chances.
"I felt very proud of our team the day before we left for Vegas," he said. "We all worked very hard on the business case and the ideas we came up with were realistic, innovative, and most importantly, our own."
The night before the competition, faced with the worst possible time slot - first at 8:30 a.m. - the team realized they had to do something unique in order to be remembered, Schiffler said. Instead of wearing business suits, they decided to wear Tesla shirts they had made earlier as part of their marketing recommendations, and they incorporated their Tesla attire into their presentation.
"We looked a little less professional, but we had a flare about us," he said. "I truly believe this is what put us over the edge."
At the awards dinner, Schiffler continued to have confidence.
"Even though we were up against huge schools like Texas A&M and Eastern Kentucky, I wasn't concerned. That's why when I didn't hear our name called for third or second place, I knew-we won. They called our name, and I kept my composure. John on the other hand let out a big, 'Yeah!'
"I've also never seen Steve so happy in my entire life," he said. "Seeing Steve and Paul as happy as they were that night, made the hundreds of hours of work and studying totally worth it."