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‘Stellar’ year for business students in international competitions

First place at Ivey (from left): Angus Adams, Dr John Guthrie, Jordan Van Der Klei, James Kuperus and Harry Cunningham

The team was tasked with helping an Ontario horse-breeding company facing a significant decrease in income following a law change

2014 has been a stellar year for University of Otago business students involved in international CASE competitions.

The competitions are based around solving a business problem, and students were tasked with finding the best business strategy for organisations depending on their particular need.

Otago teams attended four international competitions this year - winning the final at one of the largest competitions at Canada’s Western University’s Richard Ivey Business School - and finishing a credible third at the University of Porto competition in Portugal.

CASE Competitions organiser and Senior Lecturer within the Department of Marketing Dr John Guthrie says there are few universities around the world which can claim such achievements.

Their recipe for success? “The brilliant training of course,” Dr Guthrie laughs.

Otago teams well prepared for international competitions

Otago receives third place caption: The top three team at the University of Porto (from left): Susie Krieble, Laura Manson, Loren McErlean and Matthew Anderson

But jokes aside, the local competitions programme that Dr Guthrie has implemented at Otago ensures students are well drilled and prepared for the international competitions.

“We have built a good community here now; each time we have built a team which learns from the time before,” Dr Guthrie says.

Twenty-year-old Jordan Van Der Klei, who is completing both a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Arts, was a member of the successful team competing at Western University and is full of praise for Dr Guthrie’s efforts.

“Without him, I’m not sure any other university would have given us the time of day to make ourselves better,” she says.

Jordan and her fellow team mates, Bachelor of Commerce students Harry Cunningham, James Kuperus and Angus Adams, met while living at Selwyn College.

None of them were particularly confident public speakers, but putting in some training one month prior to going really made a difference.

“You wouldn’t think you would need much practice because it’s all off-the-cuff, but presenting is one of those things that you get better at with practice,” Jordan says.

“We were all pretty shoddy at the start, but we managed to get significantly better.”

Real life cases for students to deal with

Otago after being announced finalists: The top three team at the University of Porto (from left): Matthew Anderson, Loren McErlean, Dr John Guthrie, Susie Krieble and Laura Manson

The team was presented with a “live” case in Canada, tasked with helping an Ontario horse-breeding company facing a significant decrease in income following a law change relating to funding availability via pokie machines.

The students travelled to the horse-breeding farm, meeting with staff to find out what the problem was and spending time with the manager, discussing various options.

The Otago team’s advice? Consolidate, sell some assets and go into a holding pattern until the changing market settled down.

Jordan says they were delighted to win. “We went over there, not expecting to make the final and we were excited to just make the final; winning was crazy.”

Business experiences valuable for the real world

Bachelor of Law honours student Laura Manson was a member of the winning team competing in Portugal, and tasked with solving a problem for renewable energy company, EDP Renewables.

Together with Bachelor of Commerce student team mates Matthew Anderson, Loren McErlean and Susie Krieble, the team set about developing a strategy around what technologies and geographies the company should be diversifying into.

Laura was lucky enough to compete in another CASE competition last year and says she hopes to draw on the experiences she has gained during her studies at Otago University when she begins working at private business advisory company, PwC, in Auckland next year.

“All of these opportunities to do things to support what we are studying are pretty exciting.”