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Cornell students attribute case competition win to HR background, preparation

Nasiya Acklen MBA/MILR '16, Catherine Guydan MILR '14, Christine Chang MBA/MILR '16, Pete Cronin MBA '14 and Matt Olson MILR '15For the third time in seven years, Cornell has won first place in the Deloitte/GE National MBA Human Capital Case Competition.

This weekend's event, held at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., pitted students from 12 schools against one another in a demonstration of their business acumen.

The case focused on the human capital problems plaguing Maersk Group, a multinational shipping and oil and gas conglomerate. Specifically, students were asked to propose a solution to reduce Maersk's employee turnover rate and increase retention.

It was the second year in a row that Cornell won the case competition.

Kate Guydan MILR '14, a participant in this year's competition, credited Cornell's victory to both the students' background in human resources coursework and hard work the team put into preparation.

"We were able to successfully tie together a complete story from business strategy to recommendations, and quantify the financial impact of our proposed solutions," Guydan said.

"We can attribute a lot of that strategy linkage to what we learned in Chris Collins' HR Management course, as well as other HR coursework." Collins is an associate professor at ILR.

"We have an advantage over the MBA programs we are competing against who do not have that specific human capital focus," she added.

The team - which also includes Nasiya Acklen MBA/MILR '16, Christine Chang MBA/MILR '16, Pete Cronin MBA '14 and Matt Olson MILR '15 - prepared by repeatedly practicing its presentations and by playing devil's advocate, Guydan said.

Cornell's winning presentation, selected by a panel of four judges, put forward specific solutions for three of Maersk's business lines.

"We proposed a series of recommendations that would align the workforce needs with each of the business lines' unique strategies," Guydan explained.

University of Southern California took home second place and Northwestern University came in third.

Although preparing for a case competition is time intensive, Guydan said that it was worth the effort.

"I've learned so much from my teammates and the process," she said.

"When I graduate this spring, I will remember the human capital case competitions among the most valuable experiences I had during my time at the ILR School."