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Competition gives students reai worid experience
BY LESLIE WIMMER Fort Worth Business Press Business students from across the United States competed in Fort Worth to solve case problems and pass on resumes to Sony electronics representatives. The students met March 29 at the first annual Neeley Sales and Marketing Strategy Case Competition at Texas Christian University's Neely School of Business. Sony sponsored the event. First and second year master of business administration students from TCU, Columbia University, Harvard University, Emory University, Pepperdine, Texas A&M and the University of California at Berkeley were randomly arranged in 11 groups of five students, with one TCU student in each group. The groups were given about five and a half hours each to work together and solve case problems surrounding the Sony Reader Digital Book, a product new to the electronics market, said Ed Riefenstahl, director of experiential learning for the Neeley School of Business. The groups had staggered start times that allowed them 10 minutes to ask Sony executives, who judged the competition, questions about the case, Riefenstahl said. The groups then went to their respective team rooms to work on the case. Cases included issues surrounding marketing messages and audiences, distribution channels, which particular markets would have highest sales potential

What I hope to gain is first of all exposure to a different company, that's the nice thing about case competitions, you get to take a sneak peak into their business, and work on it, and you don't often get to do that
and other uses for the digital book reader product, Riefenstahl said. "It's beneficial for the students because they get the opportunity to work on a current situation that Sony is facing," Riefenstahl said. "I think for the TCU the opportunity to host this first ever national competition is wonderful because it enables the students that are visiting here to get the [opportunity] to see first hand the quality of our students. For Sony, they're getting input, but also they're getting to see 55 highly talented people perform who might be interested in working for Sony or Sony might be interested in hiring." Sony representatives at the competition included Jay Vandenbree, president of Sony consumer sales; Steve Haber, senior vice president of Sony's marketing digital imaging and audio division; Steve Täte, senior vice president of strategic sales planning; Ken Stevens, senior vice president of Sony's central zone; Paul Spitale, senior vice president of Sony's eastern zone; and Dennis McTighe. TCU executive master of business administration alumnus and senior vice president of Sony's western zone. The event "becomes a recruiting vehicle for us," McTighe said. "TCU has been

- Neetey student Katie O'Brien

able to generate a tremendous amount of interest and these are all schools we'd love to talk to and perspective employees and to have them exposed to the company and us exposed to them is beneficial." Sony executives did not conduct job interviews at the competition, but asked students interested in jobs with the company to bring resumes and the judges got to see the students in action, McTighe said. When students finished their case problems, they presented a Power Point presentation on the group's solution to the judges. Groups were judged on their presentation's organization, the group's confidence in its solution to the case problem, analysis of market characteristics, responsiveness to judge's questions and concerns, and the viability of the proposed case solution in the business world. Groups were eligible to win three monetary prizes, $6,000 for first place, $4,000 for second and $2,000 for third as well as two title prizes including "Best Handling of Questions" and "Most Innovative Solution." Giving students a current problem to solve in a limited time frame is representative of a problem the students may face

in the real world, McTighe said. "When something comes up in every day work and when you're trying to market a product or sell a product, sometimes you don't have the luxury of weeks or months of studying to make a decision about it, you have to take the data that's available to you, analyze it and decide," McTighe said Neeley student Katie O'Brien graduates in May, and competed and turned in a resume to Sony officials at the event. O'Brien believes the challenge of working with people she has never met makes the competition worthwhile, she said. "What I hope to gain is first of all exposure to a different company, that's the nice thing about case competitions, you get to take a sneak peak into their business, and work on it, and you don't often get to do that," O'Brien said. "I also look forward to get to working on a new case with brand new people." O'Brien competed in a similar event at the University of Rochester in 2007. Riefenstahl also attended the Rochester event and brought the idea and competition logistics back to Neeley to see if other students would be interested in holding an event at TCU, he said. He then contacted McTighe to see if Sony would be interested in sponsoring the event, and Sony agreed. Riefenstahl hopes to continue holding yearly business case competitions at TCU.
Contact Wimmer at lwimmer@bizpress Jiet

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