Nearly 100 full-time MBA students tackled their first real-world business challenge Aug. 23-25, 2017, during the third annual MBA Orientation Live Case Competition at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “This competition will slingshot you into your MBA program,” said Smith School professor Neta Moye, who designed the experiential learning activity with representatives from PepsiCo. “It will ratchet up your learning curve.”
Rather than using a historic case or hypothetical data, students relied on current PepsiCo sales figures to generate strategies for boosting beverage revenue at wholesale clubs like Costco and BJ’s. PepsiCo delegates stayed on campus during the three-day event to answer questions, and then they judged team presentations.
Besides fostering critical thinking and data-based decision-making, the exercise helped incoming students bond with their classmates. “We feel strongly about our sense of community here,” Moye told the students.
The winning team urged PepsiCo to expand the prominence and promotion of coconut water in the club channel through the Naked brand. “Millennials want healthy options, and coconut water is the next natural thing,” MBA student Rashmi Jayanth told the judges. “We’re trying to leverage the success of the Naked brand.”
Her teammate, MBA student Risky Ananda, grew up in Indonesia drinking coconut water, and he told the judges that the U.S. market will only grow as more people discover the virtues of the beverage. Other members of the winning team included MBA students Bianca Romano, Christopher Kearney and Kalonji Sutherland-Madhere.
Overall, the incoming full-time MBA class includes 13 percent military, 28 percent international, 31 percent underrepresented minority and 34 percent women. The average student age is 29 and the average work experience is 5.7 years.
Incoming students also completed workshops on design thinking, critical thinking, personal branding, networking, public speaking and presentation skills during the two-week orientation. Representatives from the Office of Career Service also presented strategies for finding internships and jobs.