College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Hard Work Pays Off


It was the culmination of many months worth of work when the students of Mr. T Squad took top honors and $6000 in the Philip Morris/College of Business James Scholar Case Competition. Only the investment of effort was not limited to just those eager freshmen James Scholars of the Class of 2012. Included were committed deans and their staff members, Philip Morris representatives, alumni, development officers, and even the president of the University, B. Joe White.

Early in 2007, John Hedeman, the new assistant dean for honors worked with then Dean Avijit Ghosh to redesign the College of Business James Scholar Honors Program to better connect with the educational mission of the College. As a result, the program changed from simply a means to early registration privileges to a program filled with advantages and opportunities.

As the James Scholars matriculated last August, they were ushered into a new Honors Seminar led by Associate Dean Victor Mullins and Assistant Dean Collette Niland. With the help of Lois Meerdink, Assistant Dean of Business Career Services, her staff, and President White, students were indoctrinated in the rigors of professionalism as it relates to honorable behavior, social responsibility, career development, civic engagement, cultural competence and leadership.
It was an unusual arrangement when dean Hedeman negotiated for Philip Morris USA to sponsor the case competition. Like many companies who approach the College looking for ways to engage students as they enter the job market, Philip Morris representatives Kurtis Kochis and Chuck Glisson initially thought to engage seniors. Dean Hedeman seized an opportunity for both Philip Morris and his James Scholars by working to build a competition unlike any other.
The case competition presented students with a problem: how to attract students like themselves to work for Philip Morris USA after graduation. For their efforts, four each of first, second, and third place winners receive a cash prize and bragging rights. Second place winners received $750 each, while each third place winner walked away with $250.

All of the 48 participating students came away with much more than they realized. Despite the intimidating circumstances of presenting publicly to a corporate giant, they added an important rite of passage to their list of experiences. In performing an extensive project, complete with thoughtful analyses and focused presentation, they gained an initial glance into a future of business transactions typically reserved for juniors and seniors.

Bryan Macfarlane, Brock Jenkins, James Lenihan, and Lucas Schumann of Mr. T Squad; Jason Febery, Lisandro Tsai, Akrati Johari, and Gina Mastrangeli of Emporus, Inc.; and Bradley Fink, Joe Deutsch, Stone Zhou, and Varun Karkhanis of The Stoned Zhous, all experienced the thrill of winning after a lot of hard work. It is the kind of experience that lasts a lifetime.

Likewise, the many efforts paid off for Philip Morris representatives who forged meaningful relationships with future leaders and present partners, and who gained insight into attracting top students. The College also improved its working relationship with an important corporate partner and lifted the educational environment for James Scholars to a new level. Great things are happening in the College of Business.

UIUC College of Business