Bauer MBAs Take First Place In ELC Business Case Competition

Students Take Home $35,000 in Scholarships and Recognition at ELC’s National Gala

Published on April 23, 2012

MBA students Emeka N. Akpunonu, left, and Clyde McNeil (pictured with faculty advisor Carla Jones) won The Executive Leadership Council’s (ELC) 2012 Business Case Competition.

Two MBA students from the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston won first place last week in The Executive Leadership Council’s (ELC) 2012 Business Case Competition. Emeka N. Akpunonu and Clyde McNeil were named the top team in the final round of competition on April 20.

Sponsored by ExxonMobil, the competition in the finals included teams from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. Judges represented leading corporations and non-profits, such as the Compass Group, 100 Black Men of America, AETNA, Inc., Aztec Worldwide Group, United Way Worldwide, the Silver Parker Group and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

ELC’s Business Case Competition challenged this year’s teams to develop strategies for strengthening ties between the corporate social responsibility community and African-American nonprofits during tough economic times. Specifically, the competition examined how corporations can expand their global philanthropy efforts to African-American non-profits and other community groups at sustained or higher levels.

“The team from Bauer College made a strong case, presenting exceptional recommendations on the steps corporations and African-American non-profits need to take to strengthen their ties,” said Arnold Donald, ELC’s president and CEO.

He added, “The team offered powerful solutions for helping corporations retain and increase charitable giving to African-American non-profits while expanding their philanthropic footprint around the globe.”

In recognition of their first place win, team captain Akpunonu and McNeil will share a $35,000 scholarship cash award and will be recognized during ELC’s 2012 Annual Recognition Gala in October before an audience of more than 2,000 corporate, education and government leaders.

“We devised a game plan for how to conduct the research necessary to create successful deliverables and developed a strategy,” Akpunonu said. “In order to get an external view of our recommendations, we thought it was wise to leverage some of the resources here at UH Bauer.”

The students reached out to Carla Jones, an assistant professor in the college’s Department of Management, to serve as faculty advisor. “Clyde and Emeka utilized the skills gained throughout their program in responding to the case,” Jones said. “The team worked tirelessly in their efforts to represent the university well! Their success provides wonderful exposure for the Bauer College and UH.”

Jones’ passion for mentoring was an asset to the team, McNeil said. “Throughout the project she played the critical evaluator, the motivator and also our biggest advocate. It's also important to note that Dr. Jones prompted us to think as opposed to providing answers, which I found to be a valuable part of this experience. She provided her insights and direction, and beyond that, she helped us assemble a team of internal and external resources to provide much needed feedback.”

Several Bauer College faculty provided insight, including Steve Koch, an executive professor of marketing; Michael Newman, a clinical professor of accounting; and Dale Rude, a clinical professor of management.

Akpunonu and McNeil will share a $35,000 scholarship award for their proposal for strengthening corporate support for African-American non-profits.

Akpunonu and McNeil will share a $35,000 scholarship award for their proposal for strengthening corporate support for African-American non-profits.

The team also had interview and feedback sessions with members of the local business community, including Eric Edmonds (MBA ’11), business development at Water Standard; Dipesh Desai (MBA ’11), president of ExcelNow!; Michelle Thompson (MBA ’11); Marcus Davis, owner of The Breakfast Klub restaurant; Bruce Levine, CAZ International Human Capital Consulting; Ashley Estes, corporate fundraising at Houston Food Bank; Leslie Farnsworth, Frogdog Nonprofit Consultants; Yolanda Smith, NAACP Houston Branch; Elmer Rogers, Houston Area Urban League; Alice Aanstoos, AT&T Regional Vice President; Dan Wampler, Genesysworks Executive Director and Mark Putnam, UH Office of Development.

Most of the practical tools the team designed for the case were inspired by what they’d learned in Bauer MBA classes, Akpunonu said. “The amazing prediction techniques from the Data Mining for Business Intelligence class taught by Prof. Norman Johnson played a very key role in our report,” he added. “Other tools emanated from classes such as the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) class taught by Prof. Michael Murray and the Business Modeling class taught by Prof. Phil Rogers.”

Akpunonu and McNeil worked together to develop a team chemistry focused on submitting solid deliverables, viewing the competition as more than a “what if” scenario.

“We considered ourselves to be real consultants solving critical business problems,” Akpunonu said. “This perspective was instrumental to our success.”

Competing alongside some of the brightest MBA students from around the nation was exhilarating, he said, and perhaps even more so, was to claim the prize for UH Bauer. “Having the opportunity to positively impact the perception of UH and especially Bauer in the marketplace is extremely rewarding,” McNeil said.

“Our winning is a testament to the leadership and strength of the Bauer MBA program.”