As their first semester comes to a close, a case competition organized with Northrop Grumman during the final week of MBA orientation is paying dividends for the class of 2017 full-time MBA students at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. Many first-year MBA students cite the activity as a highlight of their Smith experience and great way to prepare for the rigors of a full-time program and job search.
The orientation program was revamped this year, thanks to a push from the MBA students entering their second year at Smith. A committee of second-year students helped plan the program to better align with the experiences and challenges the new class will face in their first two semesters.
Particularly helpful was the addition of a live case competition from Northrop Grumman as the final event of the two week orientation. Teams of four incoming MBA students had two days to propose new, forward looking ideas that would help Northrop Grumman create future value in an increasingly competitive market. Managers from Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems Sector worked closely with Smith faculty to create the case. Across the two-and-a-half-day event, 15 different NGC managers came to campus to support the student teams. Beyond presenting the case challenge, they conducted Q&A sessions, judged first round presentations and provided valuable feedback to teams, as well as judged the final presentations and selected the winning teams.
Students have expressed great appreciation for the dedicated involvement of the Northrop Grumman managers. “We all really appreciated Northrop Grumman’s participation,” said Jared Spier, MBA ’17, a student on one of the finalist teams. “We learned a lot about their business as a whole by analyzing their annual report and listening to their presentation. Being exposed to the language of business and the problems that they are facing gave us something to think about before we started classes. We’ve since covered topics in class that I can apply back to what I learned in the case competition.”
The competition provided value not only to students, but to Northrop Grumman as well. Carlin Hetzler, Director Financial Planning and Smith alum (Accounting, 1978) and Dan Severn , Business Manager and Smith Alum (MBA, 2010), were heavily involved in all aspects of the case competition and are both very excited about the outcome. “This was truly an amazing experience. With essentially no prep time the MBA students hit the ground running and turned in outstanding recommendations. The Smith School treated us like visiting royalty. I'm proud to have been a part of this project.", said Carlin. Ian Callanan, Business Manager and Smith undergrad & MBA alum said “The ability to connect with the entire organization was an invaluable experience” while Kimberly Clark Emery, Business Manager is “looking forward to this talented group of graduates completing the program and would highly consider graduates for hire at Northrop Grumman.”
This case competition seems to have accomplished its primary goal -- quickly immersing students in the kind of innovative problem solving Smith School students are known for. Several Smith School MBA teams won early case competitions this semester, including GE’s Experienced Commercial Leadership Development Program Case Competition and the Cognizant Case Competition.
Mohamed Boraie, first-year MBA student, credits the orientation program with thrusting students right into thinking like a business leader and preparing for new careers. Hailing from Egypt, the former World Bank employee-turned wedding photographer was looking for a career transition when he entered Smith. He’s applying many of the big takeaways from the case competition as well as career preparation that took place during Orientation. “The case competition encouraged us to really think outside of the box,” Boraie said. “It was also great to be in front of an employer that early on in the game to practice my own story of what I can bring to the table as an MBA with my background.” He attended a career conference in September and already landed an internship at Campbell’s Soup for the summer of 2016.
This year’s crop of MBAs can look forward to planning an equally successful orientation next year to welcome another new class of Smith Terps. One event they look forward to organizing is next year’s live case competition – an innovation sure to become an important tradition for the Smith School.