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        Case competitions prepare Harbert MBA students for real-world business situations

        April 29, 2021 By Joe McAdory

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        From left, Brent DeAngelis, Bethany Salgado, Madelaine Duggan, and Caleb Gude represented Harbert College's MBA program in the April 15-17 SEC MBA Case Competition, hosted by the Harbert College and presented by Aflac.


        "Going through the MBA program and case competitions have made me more confident in tackling challenging business issues." — Brent DeAngelis, Harbert MBA candidate

        The Harbert College is dedicated to developing graduates who are highly-skilled, professionally prepared, confident, ethical and globally-minded.

        It’s important not only to identify relevant issues in today’s business world, but also how to solve them. Answering complex, real-world business problems – and delivering recommendations before industry professionals – is at the epicenter of Harbert College’s Master of Business Administration education.

        au mbaWhether it’s presenting before industry representatives during the Team Resource and Applied Consulting (TRAC) class, the SEC MBA Case Competition, or class projects designed to prepare students for the next level, Auburn MBA students are immediately prepared to make a difference.

        “We are able to step directly into careers and begin working with a company from the moment we are hired with minimal transition time from student to employee,” said Madelaine Duggan, an MBA/Master of Science in Information Systems candidate. “Auburn is excellent at using real-world examples to teach and facilitate learning exercises. This has given us invaluable education that is transferable to our post-graduate careers.”

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        Madelaine Duggan


        Harbert College put its MBA program and business problem-solving prowess to practice April 15-17 at the Eighth SEC MBA Case Competition, where Aflac, a leading provider of supplemental insurance products in the U.S., offered a case for students to resolve and present before corporate representatives.

        Representing Auburn and the Harbert College of Business, Madelaine Duggan, Caleb Gude, Brent DeAngelis, and Bethany Salgado were tasked with creating new growth initiatives to fit within a specified budget. Details of the case were not disclosed.

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        Dr. Peter Stanwick


        “Aflac gave the students complete freedom,” said Peter Stanwick, Associate Professor in Management in the Harbert College of Business who teaches the MBA program’s TRAC course and served as faculty adviser to students for the recent SEC competition. “The students researched areas to expand, different types of marketing issues and programs to consider. Traditionally in these competitions, it’s a narrow focus. I love the idea that students could do whatever they wanted. It was a much more creative way for them to gather information and to grow as future professionals.”

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        Caleb Gude


        Gude, who earned “Best Presenter” in the SEC MBA Case Competition, said the program’s exposure to other cases throughout the curriculum “was the best preparation for the competition because it provided insights into approaching complex business issues and problems in innovative ways.”

        “This type of approach was critical in order to draft a compelling narrative that showcased our ideas and why they were important to the success of the firm,” said Gude, an MBA and Master of Science in Finance candidate. “The case competition was a window that revealed the core aspects of the business that firms care about, as well as providing valuable insight into the decision making process that firms make when tackling future uncertainty. It’s important to have this valuable insight, if success in a professional career beyond Auburn is desired.”

        Stanwick said allowing students to take theoretical concepts and apply them toward real-world business problems is the backbone of career readiness.

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        Brent DeAngelis


        “When they become managers, they will know that they have the ability to convert these ideas into actionable plans that companies could use to grow,” he said. “With the SEC and our TRAC program, and all cases our students work on throughout the MBA program, a Harbert College MBA might be more desirable than others. I know that others have similar programs, but what makes us unique in a very competitive landscape? Our students come here to develop a unique skillset which can be applicable regardless the level of management once they have completed our MBA program.”

        DeAngelis, a second-year Auburn MBA student with almost three years of professional experience as a Senior Consultant at Pritoviti, a global consulting firm, said the Auburn MBA program focuses on a three-step process that leads students to success: 1) Where are we now?; 2) Where do we want to be?; and, 3) How do we get there?

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        Bethany Salgado


        “The same can be applied to business cases where our goal is to quickly break down the issue, or issues, determine the end results, and figure out the optimal path to reach said end result,” he said. “Following this basic premise helps to focus our thinking and get to the root cause. Ultimately, going through the MBA program and case competitions has made me more confident in tackling challenging business issues because that’s exactly what we have been doing!”

        Bethany Salgado, a second-year Auburn MBA student who also serves as a graduate research assistant at the Harbert College, said participating in numerous case competitions and presentations continue to develop her hard and soft skills.

        “From conducting financial analyses and developing marketing plans for companies to presenting in front of a panel of corporate executives judging these competitions, I continue to refine my MBA skillset,” she said. “Case competitions can be thought of as consulting opportunities in many ways because you're given a short period of time to review a company's challenges, conduct outside research to understand the market, and develop and present a solution which benefits not only the company's bottom line, but also the customers that expect high-quality service from these businesses. This is particularly useful for what I know I'll face after graduation. It is, by far, the best way I've been able to prepare myself as a business professional.”

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