Ethics Take Center Stage at first annual Graziadio Case Competition

November 21, 2006


Ethics unfortunately do not always serve as the catalyst for decision-making in today’s business environment. But for Pepperdine University graduate students competing in the first annual Graziadio Case Competition on November 17, ethics and social responsibility were critical components of successful business strategy.

A traditional battle of business wits, the Graziadio Case Competition required rigorous strategy setting and financial analysis, plus time management and persuasive presentation. But the impact of management decisions on all stakeholders- from investors to employees to the environment- took center stage in the first event of the Values-Centered Leadership Lab, a student-driven organization at the Graziadio School of Business and Management (GSBM) that promotes hands-on leadership development and collaboration.

Co-sponsored by the School of Law’s Geoffrey H. Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law, the Competition allotted teams of graduate students less than two hours to analyze their first round cases and prepare strategic solutions using no technology beyond overhead transparencies. In the final round, three teams presented to a live audience in the Drescher Auditorium on Pepperdine’s graduate campus in Malibu. The winning team- ETC Consulting, comprising full-time MBA students Jessmy D’Souza, Jessica Jekkel and Erik Bleitz, plus JD/MBA student Brad White- won $2,500.

ETC Consulting wins first annual Graziadio Case Competition!

From Left: Judges Leslie Paton (GSBM alum) and Dr. Kris Knaplund (Pepperdine School of Law); Erik Bleitz and Brad White of winning student team ETC Consulting; and GSBM Dean Linda Livingstone. Front row: Jessmy D’Souza and Jessica Jekkel of ETC Consulting.


11 teams competed in all, featuring 36 students from GSBM and Pepperdine’s Schools of Law and Public Policy. Runners-up were MOK Consulting Group (Oliver Szocs, Kimberly Britton and Maureen Mungers) and the German Stereotypes (Samuel Schmidt, Tobias Bakeberg and Chrstoph Balzer.)

The Graziadio Case Competition featured two real cases from the Aspen Institute’s The first round case concerned retail giant Sears, Roebuck & Company’s 1997 decision to cut life insurance benefits for retirees; the second centered on The DuPont Company’s response to the late-1980’s discovery that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)- chemicals produced by its Freon division- are harmful to the earth’s atmosphere.

Final round judges included Dr. Hamid Ait-Ouyahia, who led a team of GSBM students to a top-three finish at the 2006 John Molson MBA International Case Competition in Montreal, and GSBM alum Mike Lee, a member of that team, plus Dr. Kris Knaplund from the School of Law and GSBM alum and former Molson competitor Leslie Paton.

GSBM faculty Molly Lavik, Dr. Andrea Scott, Dr. Maggie Phillips, Dr. Nancy Wallis, Dr. Donald Atwater, and Dr. Gary Mangiofico, and business leaders Ed Teft of Charles Dunn Capital, Inc. and Doug Graham of ShredRite, Inc., generously served as first-round judges.

The Values-Centered Leadership Lab wishes to thank all faculty, students, administration, alumni and business leaders involved for a successful inaugural event. Full-time MBA student Naveen Jethwani directed the event with the support of fellow students Oxana Davydova, Liz Passaretti, Arde Sahraeean, and Lab co-founder Cameron Madani. Hats off to The Lab’s Graziadio Case Competition team!

The Stock Options Backdating Scandal

November 13, 2006

In another high profile ouster resulting from the exploding executive stock options scandal that began exploding this summer:  KB Homes CEO Bruce Karatz, and two other execs from the massive LA-based home building giant.

Some of us Lab’ers watched this scandal emerge, live and in our face, during our summer session Business Law class. Graziadio Law faculty Gia Weisdorn encouraged discussion of the emerging issue in class; in fact, she began discussing it back in May when it was a little sidebar in the WSJ and cautioned us that it could become major news along with other issues of excessive executive compensation. Wow, was she right.

Graziadio Case Competition Field Announced!

November 13, 2006

After a late surge in applications, the Grazadio Case Competition’s competitive admissions process yielded the following 11 teams, as competitors in the first annual event, which takes place Friday, November 17, 2006 at the Drescher Center!

The Exposers: Mathias Heraeus, Ashley Hall, Faisal Rajput, Ariana Fletcher

MOK Consulting Group: Oliver Szocs, Kimberly Britton, Maureen Mungers

ETC Consulting: Jessmy D’Souza, Jessica Jekkel, Brad White, Erik Bleitz

The Cougars: Wil Phan, Vanessa Towning, Ryan Koo, Vanessa VanderZanden, Jared Weidenbaum

SPY: Pramod Kunju, Yakin Patel, Prasad Palaparty

The Waves: Rocio Ponco, Philip Potkowski, Alina Topala, Greg Holt

The Rookies: Collete Simko, Matt Kemp, Michael Tanenbaum, Pei-Chi Chou

Ethicapital: Nicholas Merriam, Breanne Hayes, Thomas Lombardi

Caesar’s Wife: Erik Darby, Nicole Judd, Jake Wall

Creative Citizen: Scott Badenoch, Cameron Mitchell, Akash Khorsandi, Argam Derhartunan

German Stereotypes: Samuel Schmidt, Tobias Bakeberg, Christoph Balzer

The Graziadio Case Competition Approaches!

November 2, 2006

There’s still time to apply your team to the first-ever Graziadio Case Competition! On November 17, The Lab hosts Graziadio’s first ever classic case competition with an ethics twist. Teams of graduate business and law students will compete to analyze cases and present their solutions over two rounds to a panel of esteemed judges and a live audience in the Drescher auditorium.

The winners reap the satisfaction of ethical strategic decision-making enlightenment- and a cash prize! The purse currently sits at $2,500 for first place; $1,000 for second!.

See more at the Case Competition page, including application materials. Or email Naveen.jethwani@pepperdine for more details!


Dr. Hamid Ait-Ouyahia, a Distinguished Practitioner Faculty of Marketing Strategy, provides a primer on analyzing and presenting cases a timely and efficient manner. Dr. Hamid guided a team of full-time MBA students to a top-three finish at the 2006 John Molson International MBA Case Competition in Montreal.

Your Wealth, In Context

November 2, 2006

In yet another friendly reminder of 1) how good we have it here in the US and 2) that, when you’re making your post-MBA big bucks, you should try to do something good with it!, check out the Global Rich List.

It’s some fresh context on how far your own hard-earned dollar goes in the worldwide context, even if it’s difficult to remember if you’re among our salary-free MBA student readers!

The Work Environment

October 18, 2006

Doesn’t it make sense that a happy employee is a productive one?  Do you subscribe to the belief that a creative environment stimulates creativity and enthusiasm?

These companies get it- that it’s worth making an investment in setting; that there’s more to work places than cubes and fluorescent lighting.

Is treating your employees well part of social responsible? These companies probably think so, as do these

Immersive Learning: Ethics in the Slammer

September 29, 2006

Here’s a great article from the archives of the SF Chronicle about how b-schools like Haas and, of course, Graziadio, have used prison visits to drive home the adverse effects of unethical white collar crime, and a follow-up  with more explanation from the  involved  Graziadio faculty.
Some people may not need more than their fourth-grade visit to the county pokey to motivate them toward an ethical business career, while others may need a hard-hitting reminder by the time they reach grad school age.  What other hands-on experiences have you heard of that help illustrate the impact of business ethics at a personal level?
Thanks to Divya of The Lab for finding these…

How Google Gives Away Part of Its Vast Fortune

September 24, 2006

A great interview from Wired Magazine about how Google manages its burgeoning philanthropy program under the direction of Dr. Larry Brilliant, an innovative physician turned social change agent.

Dr. Brilliant, if you are listening, we would love to host you at Pepperdine…

Estuardo Porras, Starbucks and Pepperdine

August 14, 2006

Great article from Inc. Magazine on Estuardo Porras, a sustainable coffee farmer in Guatemala and a supplier to Starbucks. Early in, the article mentions Porras’ mid-nineties business education at Pepperdine. VCLL intends to track down Mr. Porras and ask for his insights on building a sustainable, responsible business.

Contact VCLL!

August 14, 2006

Please contact co-founders Cameron Madani and Jeff Rozic with any questions, feedback, or involvement interest.

Cameron Madani
(310) 430-2938
Jeff Rozic
(419) 290-1507ff

For questions about the November 17 Case Competition, please contact:
Naveen Jethwani at