Notre Dame MBA announces winners of innovative virtual case competition


The Notre Dame MBA Mini Deep-Dive Challenge

In considering how a major telecommunications company can help Americans age 65 and older make better use of mobile phones, Edward Drakhlis of Brooklyn, N.Y., thought about two major factors: Many seniors are uncomfortable with mobile technology, and they have fixed incomes.

With his resulting proposal, Drakhlis won the grand prize in the Notre Dame MBA Mini Deep-Dive Challenge, a virtual case competition sponsored by the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and Sprint. As part of the award, Drakhlis will receive a $25,000 fellowship toward tuition upon successfully matriculating into the Notre Dame MBA program, as well as additional prizes.

“I tried to develop something that can be implemented quickly and leverage the company’s current assets,” said Drakhlis, a freelance marketing consultant who is planning to pursue his MBA. “I thought about what makes the many philanthropies I currently respect and enjoy so successful. It narrowed down to simplicity, a feeling of involvement, and transparency.”

The Notre Dame MBA Mini Deep-Dive Challenge, launched Oct. 4, saw 539 registrants in the unique online competition, which was open to the public as well as prospective students. The challenge asked participants to analyze the corporate responsibility case offered by Sprint and create a one-page proposal that outlined a marketing plan addressing the communications needs of the aging population.

“At Sprint, our focus is on providing innovative solutions and connecting people wirelessly in the ways they want and dream of. To make that happen, we seek out the best and brightest minds,” said Bill White, senior vice president of corporate communications and corporate responsibility for Sprint. “We were eager to work on this project with Notre Dame because we knew that participants would generate fantastic ideas. The results were truly outstanding, and we are looking at ways we might be able to implement some of them to help our senior customers and their loved ones.”

“The unique feature of the Deep-Dive Challenge is that it gives every participant a brief introduction into graduate business education at Notre Dame by allowing them to work through a case,” said Brian Lohr, director of Notre Dame MBA Admissions. “But perhaps more significantly, this wasn’t a theoretical case. Sprint may utilize the ideas submitted during the contest to address this real-life issue presented by the ‘graying of America.’ Participants had a great opportunity to put their best ideas in front of company decision makers.”

Judging took place in two phases: A team of Mendoza College of Business faculty and staff members reviewed all entries and selected 10 to be considered by Sprint executives. The communications company then selected one grand-prize winner, one second-place winner and one third-place winner.

Entries were judged on the following criteria: understanding of the business problem presented, insightfulness and creativity of solution, and organization and development of the ideas expressed.

In addition to the grand prize of a $25,000 fellowship to the Notre Dame MBA program upon successful matriculation into the program during the 2013-14 academic year, Drakhlis also will receive a ZTE Optik Android tablet with one year of Sprint service, a Samsung Galaxy S III with one year of Sprint service, a $100 McDonald’s Arch Card and a $100 adidas gift card.

Paul Zielinski of Hampshire, Ill., won second place in the contest, and Bradley Hunter of Orem, Utah, won third place. All contestants who submitted an entry in accordance with the competition guidelines received an application fee waiver for the Notre Dame MBA program application deadline of Oct. 29.

The Notre Dame MBA Mini Deep-Dive Challenge was inspired by Interterm Intensives, a signature component of the Notre Dame MBA curriculum. Each spring and fall, MBA students participate in intense four-day sessions involving real-world presentations and case competitions from some of the top Fortune 100 companies, including Boeing, Coca-Cola, General Electric and McDonald’s.

Previous Deep-Dive Challenges included a sustainability case sponsored by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, manufacturer of the Keurig coffee makers, and a community relations-building initiative sponsored by Microsoft.

The Notre Dame MBA at the Mendoza College of Business enrolls approximately 340 students annually in its one- and two-year programs. The program is designed to sharpen students’ analytical and problem-solving skills, enhance their leadership ability and increase emphasis on ethical decision making. Students have the opportunity to study the complexities of global business through international immersions in Asia, Latin America and other locations.

The Notre Dame MBA is ranked 20th among U.S. business schools by Bloomberg Businessweek and No. 4 worldwide on the 2010-2011 Aspen Institute’s “Beyond Grey Pinstripes,” an alternative ranking that measures the school’s integration of sustainability and social responsibility into curricula and research. The Mendoza College also is a member of the Forté Foundation, a consortium of major corporations and top business schools supporting women in business leadership roles.