Oakland University Business Scholars team takes home top prizes at international competition

A team of six Oakland University Business Scholars won first place for Best Overall Performance and first place for Best Documents at the 51st International Collegiate Business Strategy Competition at California State University in Anaheim during the weekend of April 25.

The students, Accounting senior Laura Tack; Finance junior Jon Kashat; Accounting junior Jonathan Strong; Accounting senior David Sullivan; Finance senior Phillip Johnson; and Finance senior Leah Slazinski, along with faculty adviser Dr. Joy Jiang, took high honors in the intense two-part competition.

This is the first time OU participated in this prestigious competition where student teams, in simulated real-world competition, take over management of a virtual company making 20 rounds of quarterly strategic and operational decisions. This year, 36 teams representing 27 universities from around the world competed.

OU’s Scholars outperformed competitors on all financial and strategic measures to claim the first place in overall performance. One judge observed the team’s written materials were, “terse, direct, and right to the point.” The judges were also impressed by how the team executed the strategy with discipline as well as flexibility.

“I am so proud of them. They did miraculously well as a team that had never done a simulation,” says Dr. Jiang. “Most of the other schools have been participating for years. The (competition) chair specifically pointed out that we were a new team and we won both categories.”

In their case, the Scholars were simulating a company that manufactured durable goods. “We had to contend with other companies, as well as external factors like a strike that decreased our production capacity for several quarters,” explains Sullivan.

Each team is responsible for a strategic business plan, an annual report and one formal oral presentation to judges, who serve as the simulated Board of Directors. After completing 12 rounds of quarterly decisions from February to April, the Scholars team went to Anaheim, California, for the final intensive on-site phase to make the last 8 quarterly decisions. The students run the companies over a five-year period, competing directly against four or five other firms run by competitor teams in its simulated world.

“Taking on roles beyond their major really enforces understanding across disciplines,” says Judy Martin, Scholars coordinator.

“I am amazed at how hard they worked and how fast they developed strategic acumen and functional expertise,” says Dr. Jiang. 

While other competitions involve simply writing and/or presenting a business plan for a company, the ICBSC includes the development of a strategic business plan, the execution of the plan in a simulated environment, writing an annual report and a presentation to the Board of Directors. 

Team members agree taking part in the competition is intense, exciting and rewarding, and they never learned so much in such a short period of time.

“The best part was sticking together and making cohesive decisions, even when we had to argue,” says Kashat. “Also, seeing our stock price and financial ratios almost double our competitors!”

“My favorite part was meeting students from other universities, talking strategy and networking,” says Johnson.

“This is the essence of an experiential learning program,” says Dr. Nivedita Mukheri, associate dean. “At the celebration back on campus, one student mentioned that they had to deal with a bad stockout situation during the competition, and when one of their professors subsequently discussed the concept in class it had a totally different impact on her learning experience.”

Oakland University is a doctoral research university located on 1,443 acres of scenic land in the cities of Rochester Hills and Auburn Hills in Oakland County, Michigan. The University has 135 bachelor’s degree programs and 135 graduate degree and certificate programs. Oakland is a nationally recognized public university with more than 20,500 students. Academics include programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business Administration, School of Education and Human Services, School of Engineering and Computer Science, School of Health Sciences and School of Nursing.