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.
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 Caseplace.org. 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!