St. Thomas MBA Team Wins National Net Impact Competition

A four-person team of second-year MBA students at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business won first place in a national Net Impact competition designed to challenge teams to analyze and propose business solutions for Integrated Packaging Corp.

The St. Thomas team of Bill Grau, Kelsey Luers, Sean Elder and Hans Strommen was one of five teams presenting its analysis at the 2010 Net Impact Conference held Oct. 29 and 30 at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Members of the St. Thomas Net Impact team are, from the left, Sean Elder, Bill Grau, Hans Strommen and Kelsey Luers.

Members of the St. Thomas Net Impact team are, from the left, Sean Elder, Bill Grau, Hans Strommen and Kelsey Luers.

The case competition, "Pioneer Employer Case Competition: Raising Wages, Increasing Profits," was sponsored by Net Impact and the Hitachi Foundation.  It focused on the story of Al Fuller, co-founder of Integrated Packaging Corp., who dramatically improved the standard of living for his employees while also turning his company’s fortunes around.

In addition to the case analysis, the competition required students to work with MBA faculty and administrations to incorporate cases on pioneering employers into their schools’ MBA programs.

Five finalists were selected from the 29 teams that began the competition. The finalists, who presented their analyses to Fuller himself, were St. Thomas, the University of Arizona, Drexel University (two teams) and the University of Michigan. The St. Thomas team won $5,000 along with the first-place honors.

As part of the curriculum-change-proposal portion of the competition, the St. Thomas team secured support from Opus College of Business Dean Christopher Puto as well as each member of the full-time faculty.

“The level of support we received distinguished us from the other teams in the competition,” noted team member Bill Grau. “This competition stretched our thinking in a number of ways. Having the opportunity to present directly to Mr. Fuller made the work we were doing feel more tangible than the typical case analysis we do for classes.

“The curriculum-change portion of the competition has enabled us to have a distinct and lasting impact upon the program here at St. Thomas.  The entire process was a very real and practical exercise in business analysis, change management and team leadership.”

Net Impact is an international nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire, educate and equip individuals to use the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world.

More information about the Opus College of Business chapter of Net Impact is available here.