Winning on a Case by Case Basis


Once again, the Illinois MBA team came home from Ohio State bearing prizes won in the Big Ten Case Competition. The team took second place at the mid-January competition, tying with Indiana University, and bested only by Michigan State. When it came to elocution, though, team member Don An was outdone by no one — the second-year student carried away the prize for Best Speaker. Coached by finance faculty member Jim Gentry, the team also included first-year student Raquel Flores, and second-year students Paul Carbone and Manuel Otero, a veteran team member. Based on a case written by CBA faculty member Jeff Krug, the competition called for teams to make a recommendation to Kentucky Fried Chicken about entering the Brazilian market, under conditions in 1997. The Illinois MBA team nixed the idea and said to go after Boston Markets, at that time an undervalued restaurant chain with great potential. Faculty members Anne Grinols, Doug Johnson, Anju Seth, and Brian Wansink also helped the team prepare. Last year, the Illinois MBA team also took second place and Manuel Otero captured the prize for the Best Q&A.

Good show! Team members Paul Carbone, Don An, Raquel Flores, Manuel Otero, and Professor Jim Gentry

MBA Team Finalists in NASA Competition

It's a small, small world for the Illinois MBA program, where students are going extraterrestrial on a startlingly routine basis. The continuing story of these B-school adventures beyond the stratosphere was launched in 1996 when OSBI student teams first started work on a series of projects for Venture Star, the consortium that will privatize the NASA space shuttle and send for-profit payloads rocketing into Earth's orbit (and, presumably, over the top of the balance sheet). Now a group of seven Illinois MBA students is engaged in a project for NASA's Mars program. The proposal was one of just six finalists chosen in the 1999 NASA Means Business Student Competition. The winner will be announced after the final competition in Houston in late spring.

"Our proposal makes use of the technological resources we have here at the University of Illinois, and is focused on creating a truly global effort," explains team leader Shannon Kraus. A first-year MBA student (who is also studying for a master's in architecture), Kraus explains: "It can't be just the U.S. carrying out this mission. The whole world needs to come together and pool resources — to transcend continental boundaries and join in a global mission to Mars."

In December, Kraus and his team — which also includes Greg Locke, Mary Jacob, Craig Stack, Preston Corless, Albert Burgos, and Wayne Graff — turbo-wrote their proposal in only four days, immediately after finals. In mid-January, the team received the good news that their proposal was selected, giving members just a few months to get their work off the launch pad. On the agenda for the Illinois MBA Mars Exploration Business Plan — comprehensive proposals on finance, marketing, public relations, strategic planning, product development, and management and administration. The proposal will be presented at the NASA Customer Engagement Conference, set for Houston in May.

"We anticipate involvement with a lot of companies, in a truly international effort," predicts Kraus. "One of the major features of our proposal is to identify companies which can make key contributions — for example, finding an automotive company that can build a vehicle that will operate on Mars, or an energy company to provide the needed fuel technology." In all of this, says Kraus, "We are following the Venture Star model."

Through the Venture Star project — which got a dramatic blast-off three years ago when former astronaut T. J. Mattingly visited the Illinois campus — successive teams of Illinois MBA students have provided consulting work on business issues that face the consortium, composed of NASA, Lockheed-Martin, and other companies. Ranging from selling advertising space on the shuttle's nose cone to depreciating the spacecraft for tax purposes, student work has been acknowledged by Lockheed to be of consistently high quality — so high that it has sometimes been superior to that of paid consultants. Kraus and his team would seem to be similarly inspired. "We're looking on this as an e-mission to Mars," says Kraus. "We can involve people from all over the world in different aspects of the project — online. The spacecraft will be making the journey for months, and there will be lots of different activities and experiments taking place on board. That means lots of opportunities for different groups to get involved over the `net."

"There truly are no boundaries."

On the Mend

A second-year Illinois MBA student from Thailand is recuperating from serious injuries sustained in a freak automobile accident over Christmas break in Mexico. Kaninthorn Thamwatin was on a highway south of Juarez in a rental car with four other MBA students when the car's steering system failed, causing the car to veer off the road and flip over. None of the other students was seriously injured. Thamwatin was air-lifted from a clinic in Villa Ahumada, about ninety miles south of the border, to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where he under-went extensive surgery. His injuries have resulted in permanent visual and hearing loss and nerve damage. At press time, he had been moved to California, where he is recuperating in the care of family members and undergoing rehabilitation therapy at the medical center at UCLA.

MBA Appointments


In September, Andrew Verner, MBA Class of 1997, was named director of recruiting, marketing, and admissions. It's a complete career change for Verner, previously a Russian history prof, who got his Ph.D. at Columbia and was on the Illinois faculty for a considerable length of time. When the Soviet Union fell and funds for Russian studies did likewise, Verner saw the writing on the wall. He decided to go for his MBA, to "combine my expertise in languages with new business knowledge and acumen." Now, he says, "having gone through the revised Illinois MBA program and seen it from the inside, as a member of the first cohort, I can speak convincingly about its strengths." In his position, Verner is responsible for recruiting and admissions and for formulating the program's marketing strategy — "defining what we're about."
And at the beginning of 1999, the Illinois MBA program welcomed Camille Chang Gilmore as the new director of student services. Gilmore, MBA Class of '96, served as vice president of the MBA Student Association while in the program. She comes to her position from another job at Illinois as a labor and employee relations specialist. Her new responsibilities include answering questions about enrollments, maintaining enrollment schedules, advising students on courses and general matters, tracking options and available courses, and counseling prospective students and students who are having problems with their grades. A 1991 graduate of Penn State, Gilmore has also worked in executive positions for Federal Express and Exxon. "Illinois MBA students have two major advantages," she points out. "They have applied learning, which enables them to think outside the box. And they're technologically literate. They can communicate." As well as a big job change, she's busy adapting to a brand-new and major responsibility — Dantae Arthur-Dennis Gilmore, born October 25, eight pounds, one ounce. "I like a rush — I like to keep busy," Gilmore concludes. "And believe me, I am very busy."