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MCCC Business Students Ready to Take on Industry Challenges in Two Competitions


Mercer earns bronze! From left are Robert Kurland, Associate Dean of the Rutgers School of Business, Jane Massi of M&T Bank, and MCCC Professor Laura Sosa, with student winners Aaron Van Cleaf, Gianni Chell-Gonzalez, Marcelo Suquilanda, Megan Connor, Michael Whelan and Boris Urqiles.


The internal round featured two teams and took place on March 24.

The other team competing in the first round included, from left, Christopher Mogrovejo-Ochoa, Justin Ellis, AJ Dramis, and Isaiah Miranda.

From left, Professor Laura Sosa and business students AJ Dramis, Justin Ellis, Ahmed Alvi, Zachary Joeick, Lulu Unni and Erik Harveson, who participated in the SAP software competition at Rider University.

West Windsor, N.J. – Students in the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Business Administration program got a chance to apply their classroom knowledge and business acumen in two recent competitions at four-year institutions. In both cases, they came home winners.

On April 13, Professor of Business Laura Sosa took a team of six students to Rutgers University’s Newark Campus, where they competed in the third annual New Jersey County College Case Competition, co-hosted by Rutgers Business School and M&T Bank. MCCC was among seven community colleges in the competition.

According to Sosa, this was Mercer’s first time as a participant. Established by Rutgers Business School in 2016, the competition requires students to analyze a real-life business case and present their findings and recommendations to a panel of Rutgers and industry judges.

"We went in not sure what to expect and came home with a bronze plaque," Sosa said, noting that the students were also pleased with the monetary award that came with their third place finish. (Only the top three teams received awards.)

The project was based on the challenges facing the Keurig Green Mountain beverage company in 2010. The groups were asked to create a five-year business plan to address the company's popular K-Cup product, which was just a year or two away from losing its patent. Keurig was also facing harsh criticism from environmental groups because its product was not easy to recycle.

Mercer team members recalled the prep period leading up to the event as intense -- and a great lesson in teamwork. Freshman Gianni Chell-Gonzalez observed, “After our team was selected from the first round of judging at Mercer, we had just three weeks to prepare. We spent two weeks on our PowerPoint presentation and one week improving our delivery.” That preparation included a crash course in public speaking with Professor Alvyn Haywood two days before the event.

On the big day, the Mercer team was selected to go first. M&T’s Jane Massi, who served as the bank’s MCCC ambassador, called Mercer's third-place finish a substantial achievement for the students and their advisor. “I was a first-time M&T ambassador assigned to a team competing for the first time. I was not sure what to expect. The Mercer team was phenomenal and really set the tone for the entire competition.”

Sosa agreed that the MCCC team had clearly done its homework. "They concentrated on the company’s multiple challenges, using data to back up their plan," she said. "The presentation was professional in all respects – from researching Keurig's annual reports online to financial analysis to the creation of a PowerPoint that was polished, detailed and specific." At the conclusion of their presentation, the judges asked some tough questions and the MCCC was ready to answer every one.

After presenting their plan, the students visited the Newark Museum while other teams presented. Then all returned to the auditorium for the closing ceremony and awards announcement. The panel of judges, comprised of Rutgers professors and senior managers from M&T Bank, Merrill Lynch and Prudential, pointed out the strongest elements from each group’s plan.

The MCCC team believes its strategic analysis held the key to their success. “They really seemed to like our coffee industry analysis, sales projections and financials,” Marcelo Suquilanda said.

Sosa concurred. "The students had a sound strategy, integrating concepts from Global Business, Economics, Accounting, and Management classes. The team had solid answers to every question the judges asked."

All six students said the work required for the competition was worth it. “We learned a lot,” Megan Connor, a second-year student, said. “We not only learned what a business case would look like, but how much preparation is necessary."

Fellow student Michael Whelan, also a sophomore, said the team didn’t mind the tough questions. “The problem-solving techniques we learned — especially in a team setting — will transfer to any job in the future,” he said.

Sosa couldn’t be more proud of this group. “The team worked before morning classes, after classes, on the weekends, and even during Spring Break. Looking at real cases and participating in this type of public competition takes learning to a new level. Students move from theory to practice,” she said.

In addition to the students, Sosa acknowledges a number of her colleagues who assisted the group, including those who served as judges during the first round held at Mercer on March 27: Dean of Business and STEM Winston Maddox, and faculty members Terry Voldase, Eva Csigne, Framarz Khoushab, Kristin Callahan, Alvyn Haywood, and Erin Rybicki.

In other business news, two teams of Mercer students traveled to Rider University on April 6 to compete against two teams from Brookdale Community College in an SAP event. According to Sosa, who led the Rider trip, SAP is a type of Enterprise Resource Planning software that is used by companies worldwide. The goal of the fast-paced simulation exercise was to see which team had the highest profit at the end of the three rounds. Mercer came out the winner with the highest total.

Students found the experience educational and fun. “We had a chance to use software that is used in 350,000 companies. It was a great learning experience,” Zack Joeick said.

“I had so much fun that I didn’t want to stop playing the game,” Lulu Unni added.

Sosa reports that the Mercer teams were fast and focused. “It was such a good exercise that I am looking into acquiring this business application software for use in the classroom,” she said.

More about the Business Administration Curriculum

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