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Mendoza to host case compeition against USC

Katie Peralta | Thursday, October 15, 2009

Football will not be the only rivalry between the Universities of Notre Dame and Southern California this weekend – the two schools also lay claim to reputable business schools.

Before the two football teams take to the field on Saturday, 15 first-year business students from each school will compete in the first-ever case competition Friday morning at the Mendoza College of Business.

Mark Pienkos, assistant vice president of Originations of General Electric (GE) Corporate Retail, a 2007 Notre Dame MBA graduate who organized the event, said the idea for the competition is not a new one, but it is the first time that the event has taken place on Notre Dame’s campus.

The timing of the daylong competition is not coincidental.

“My hope is that the [the competition] can bolster the idea that while rivalry exists between the two schools it is collegial at heart,” Pienkos said. “A competitive bond is a good thing especially when it’s productive.”

The competition, which will begins at 8:30 a.m., is sponsored by GE’s Experienced Commercial Leadership Program and is aimed at determining the best market strategy for its Smart Technology Grid platform.

The Experienced Commercial Leadership Program, Pienkos said, is a global two-year post MBA leadership development program in which participants spend time in three 8-month rotations in different business fields. Additionally, Pienkos said, the program includes one month classroom training.

“All rotations will be doing work that falls across the commercial spectrum,” Pienkos said.

The competitors, he said, will be given a case relevant to GE and each of the three 5-person teams from each university will deliberate the problem during the morning and present their solution to a panel of five judges in the afternoon.

The judges include Notre Dame professor of strategy and entrepreneurship Jim Davis, GE Global Manager of Sales in Transmission and Distribution Mark Hura, GE Product Marketer Steve Richards, GE Executive Director for Global Marketing Steve Liguori and Berry Wiard of American Electric Power (AEP) in South Bend. GE is currently running a pilot program in South Bend with AEP.

Joe Kindt, a 2009 Notre Dame MBA graduate, also played an instrumental role in connecting the Notre Dame team with GE Energy, “fostering the opportunity to develop a poignant case,” Pienkos said.

The competition’s case, written by GE Market Programming Manager Bernard Lecours, deals with Smart Grid Technology aims to “reduce energy, lower cost and increase reliability and transparency,” Pienkos said.

“This is a great opportunity,” he said. “It can benefit people by reducing cost and saving energy.”

The competition not only will give students the educational opportunity to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom, but also will help GE to “use technology that’s still dormant,” Pienkos said.

Since several GE professionals and recruiters will be present at the competition, it will also be a viable networking opportunity for participants.

“From a recruiting standpoint, this is a great opportunity for us to see the best and the brightest competing,” Pienkos said.

Competitors, who had to qualify for the event, have been preparing for Friday’s competition for more than two weeks by conducting research and exploring background information about the technology, Pienkos said.

“What really excites me is the opportunity for GE to demonstrate how it bridges the gap between academia and the real world,” Pienkos said. “This can really make an impact on the broader community.”

Pienkos said he hopes that the competition will take place next year before the USC game in Los Angeles and also that it might extend to undergraduate students as well.