Business School's Case Competition Joins Forces with Major Mid-Atlantic Provider of Wireless Communications
Dean Dalziel, winners of the case competition and business team from Communications Electronics

Communications Electronics, a key provider for mission-critical wireless communications in the mid-Atlantic, is the latest company to participate in a real-world business case competition held in the University of Baltimore's Merrick School of Business. Students in a 300-level class led by Eusebio Scornavacca, the school's John and Margaret Thompson Professor of Management Information Systems, formed teams and competed with each other during the spring semester to solve a real-world business challenge presented by Communications Electronics.

It's the sixth business-case competition hosted by Scornavacca and the school. Past corporate partners include Flannigan & Sons, Gensler, Skyline, and Verizon.

Although the details of the project are closely held because the company may choose to apply them to its practices, the student-led process of interacting with a client and coming up with a solution to a real-world problem makes the effort an incomparable experiential learning opportunity, Scornavacca says. Setting up the process as a competition among the students—with a $2,000 prize donated by the company and presented to the winning team—only heightens the experience.

In this instance, students were asked to use management information systems concepts and techniques to help Communications Electronics reach a workforce utilization goal. Working on an actual case for an existing company, Scornavacca explains, encourages his students to "apply the knowledge gained in class to solve complex business problems while working collaboratively in small teams."

Christine DuBois, business analyst for Communications Electronics, along with her colleagues Ray Parker and Sean Jarvin, presented the case and worked closely with the Merrick teams. Dubois says the students "took the project to heart and didn't just try and 'make it work' for the course. I believe that is a direct result of having names and faces with real-life issues versus a textbook case study of widgets and stakeholders."

Roger Cassell, president of Communications Electronics, says he is pleased with the outcome.  

"We definitely learned some things and will be taking a hard look at our processes," he says. 

While learning to collaborate is an important learning outcome for the students, the competitive nature of the business case is another. The student teams compete to develop effective and achievable solutions for the company, and the winning team, judged by company representatives and Prof. Scornavacca, receives useful feedback and a financial reward.

"We are creating an environment that encourages our students to go 'beyond the A+'—translating learning opportunities into marketable skills," Scornavacca says.

Anthony Viennas, a member of the winning team, says that "while some solutions might look good on paper, these had to be feasible and obtainable within a short time frame." His fellow team member, Noel Spencer, says he found the case challenging as well, especially identifying solutions that would "accommodate the cross training of employees in different areas of the business in ways that would strengthen utilization rates."

Viennas, Spencer and team members John Cole, William Pierre and Emily Thompson won the competition by recommending more effective methods for Communications Electronics to collect and evaluate its data.

"The project, coupled with a high-stakes presentation, allowed us to gain the real-world experience necessary for success in the future," Cole says.

Learn more about Prof. Scornavacca.


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