Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 3, 1994

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
    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
    "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
    "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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