Business Students Win National Competition By Karen Fay Three students in the School of Continuing Studies' master of science in business program were the winning team in the recent National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) Student Case Competition in San Francisco. Blair Johnson and teammates Jerome Alston and Helen Holton, representing SCS' Division of Business and Management, beat teams from 24 other business schools across the country. Among their competitors were 10 of the nation's top 25 business schools, including Duke University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the universities of Michigan and Virginia. "Our goal was to win, not just to do well," Johnson said. For the competition, the students developed a strategically sound marketing plan for Procter and Gamble's Pantene hair-care product line. The teams were given the case just four weeks before the competition, which took place in two rounds. Each round featured a 20-minute presentation and 10-minute question-and-answer period. Judges represented the nation's leading corporations, including Microsoft Corp., General Motors, Johnson and Johnson, and General Mills. Johnson said the team's victory was the result of "a commitment to each other and the process we went through in preparing the case." Alston and Holton also cited the support they received from faculty and staff, particularly Tina Rodriquez, a faculty associate in the management program. Judith K. Broida, associate dean and director of the Division of Business and Management, and SCS Dean Stanley C. Gabor praised both the faculty and students for the achievement. "We're delighted with our students' success," Dean Gabor said. "When I saw their presentation in a trial run right before they flew to San Francisco, I was impressed by the quality and thoroughness of their work. I wasn't surprised that they won." The case was based on a marketing challenge faced by Procter and Gamble in 1991, when Helene Curtis was about to introduce the Vibrance hair care line into the market, competing directly with Pantene. At the same time, Pantene wanted to increase its market share. "Almost all of the recommendations in our plan actually mirrored Procter and Gamble's plan," said Jo Ellen Gray, director of Hopkins' Leadership Development Program for Minority Managers, who coordinated the case competition for Hopkins. For example, Gray said, after the students discussed a pricing strategy, they recommended charging 31 cents an ounce; Proctor and Gamble actually charged 30 cents an ounce. The presentation's content was given the greatest weight: 85 percent of the score was based on the soundness of the overall marketing strategy and how well it was defended. The final 15 percent was based on the team's proficiency and knowledge demonstrated during the question-and-answer session. "We were thoroughly briefed on a range of questions we thought the judges might ask," Alston said. "We even had additional slides ready, so we felt totally prepared. The judges actually ran out of questions for us." Holton said the skills she and Johnson developed while in the Leadership Development Program were an advantage in both the analysis and presentation. "After finishing the first round, as we walked out of the room, a woman stopped me to commend us on our presentation," she added. "I had no idea who she was, but it definitely increased our confidence in anticipation of making it to the finals." The final round included teams from the universities of Rochester, Tennessee, Iowa and California at Berkeley. The University of California at Berkeley garnered second place honors. "This experience was positive because the team had the opportunity to measure themselves against students from some of the nation's top business schools," Johnson said. The team's trip was funded in part by a gift from the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association. The winning team was announced at the closing ceremonies for NBMBAA's annual conference last month. Each of the Hopkins students received a $2,500 scholarship from NBMBAA.
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