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        Harbert College MBA students take third at SEC case competition

        April 10, 2017 By Troy Johnson

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        SEC MBA Case Competition

        Harbert College of Business graduate students earned a third place finish and $3,000 in the 2017 SEC MBA Case Competition held at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business on April 6-8.

        Top honors in the SEC competition went to the University of Georgia, with the University of Florida finishing second. Rounding out the top four was the University of South Carolina. This is the fifth year for the SEC MBA Case Competition, which provides an opportunity for SEC business schools to showcase their students’ skills at solving simulated, real-world problems that cover the spectrum of business disciplines.

        “This team not only competed and placed at a very high level, but they also represented the Auburn MBA with professionalism and strength,” said Jim Parrish, director of Full-Time and Online MBA Programs in the Harbert College.

        Representing Auburn University were Daniel Robinson, of Cullman, Ala., Taryn McLaughlin, of Madison, Miss., Cassie Chen, of China, and Holger Norregaard, of Middleton, Wis. Robinson also won the Best Presenter Award for his division.

        “The quality of the competition was tremendous,” said Robinson, a first-year Auburn MBA student. “In our division, we competed against a team who had previously competed in a similar case competition in Colorado, and they had also won last year's SEC competition. In addition, the overwhelming majority of the other teams had members with two to 10 years of work experience to rely on during the research and presentation stages of the competition.” 

        “We were surrounded by a very diverse and experienced group of business students. It was an exciting opportunity and experience to be competing against amazing programs with outstanding students,” said McLaughlin, a first-year MBA student.  

        In the competition, each team of four MBA students was presented a case on business growth strategy by competition supporter Nationwide®, an insurance and financial services company out of Columbus, Ohio. Teams had approximately 24 hours to prepare a solution and presentation for review by a panel of judges in divisional rounds. The top four teams moved to the final round.

        Teams were asked how Nationwide should leverage its breadth of insurance, financial and bank products over the long term. Where should it focus its investments and make strategic changes? What approaches would best meet the needs of customers?

        “We took a holistic approach and developed strategies in the areas we felt needed the most work,” McLaughlin said. “We narrowed our objectives to products, channels, and technology. We discussed topics like the generational gap, where the automotive market is heading and how to prepare (autonomous vehicles), agents versus direct-to-consumer models, the Nationwide mobile application and digital banking.”

        In regard to the team’s approach, Chen said, “We valued each other’s opinions, and creative ideas continuously came up through discussion. While new ideas came out and changes needed to be made under a tight time limitation, we evaluated the priority and feasibility and reached agreement.” 

        “The Auburn MBA program continues to attract outstanding students who excel in business thought and practice,” Parrish said. “This team joins previous Auburn MBA students who have competed successfully in case competitions. In fact, this team marks the fourth top-three finish in MBA case competitions since 2014.”

        Auburn MBA teams finished second in the 2014 SEC MBA Case Competition, second in the 2015 National Black MBA Association Case Competition and second in the 2015 National MBA Case Competition in Ethical Leadership at Baylor University. 

        The 2018 SEC MBA Case Competition will be at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.