CSB/SJU team wins at case research competition

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April 11, 2014

Left to right: senior Brian Vargason, sophomore Allison Steen, junior Andrew Lynch, senior Arianna Stotz and senior Andrew Mueller.

A five-student team from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University placed first at the Society for the Advancement of Management (SAM) Case Research Competition in Orlando, Fla.

The competition was held during the SAM National Conference April 3-6.

CSB students Allison Steen (sophomore, global business leadership, Eden Prairie, Minn.) and Arianna Stotz (senior, economics and management double-major, Plymouth, Minn.) and SJU students Andrew Lynch (junior, global business leadership, Stillwater, Minn.), Andrew Mueller (senior, management major, Arden Hills, Minn.) and Brian Vargason (senior, management major, Owatonna, Minn.) continued the schools' winning tradition. CSB/SJU teams have won the competition twice, in 2012 and 2014, and placed in the top three in five of the past six years.

Each January all 14 competing teams receive the same case study. Working independently (faculty guidance is forbidden once the students receive the case study), the teams researched JCPenney and the retail industry to create strategic recommendations.

Last fall SAM advisor Steve Schwarz, adjunct assistant professor of global business leadership at CSB/SJU, prepared the team using previous studies. The team created recommendations and presented them to SAM alumnae/alumni for advice and critiques.

"The challenge about working on a case study for JCPenney is that the company is struggling," Schwarz said. "The biggest challenge was trying to revive and breathe life back into the company."

The team's final recommendations for JCPenney included:

  • A two-year employee training program;
  • A two-step home department revamp including the addition of the Adornably mobile application and Pinterest page;
  • A partnership with Amazon for Drone delivery, using unused storage space for delivery products.

"The group's recommendations were strong and were backed with data and research," Schwarz said.

This was the first year that a sophomore participated in the team.

"In our group we each took leadership roles throughout the process," said Brian Vargason, SJU senior. "We helped and critiqued one another to make the project the best it could be."

Another strength of the team was their past internships with various companies including Target, OLSON, DAYTA marketing and Best Buy.

"We had experience in retail, social media and marketing which brought a competitive edge to the group," Schwarz said. "The students at CSB/SJU are accustomed to working together and collaborating."

The SAM team will present their work at CSB/SJU Scholarship and Creativity day on April 24.

The team received funding for the trip through Undergraduate Research Grants from the Office of Experiential Learning and Community Engagement at CSB/SJU as well as support from the Global Business Leadership department.