Knox Students Shine in Simon Graduate School Early Leaders Case Competition

Team members earn cash prizes in contest to develop business solutions

November 19, 2008

Six Knox College students competed in the Simon Graduate School of Business, University of Rochester, Early Leaders Case Competition, and four have earned cash prizes. The annual competition brings together some of the brightest young business minds in the country to simulate decisions faced by business leaders around the globe.

Participants are selected by the Simon School through a competitive application process. Despite Knox's small size, six Knox students were selected, the largest contingent of students after the University of Rochester itself. "We were the largest group of students from one college there," explains Garry Barton, a senior from Galesburg.

Participants were divided into five-person teams, mixing students from the competing colleges and universities. Each team -- coached by a Simon graduate student -- received a case to resolve under tight deadline requirements, testing their creativity and problem-solving skills. Teams competed for a $7,000 first place prize, with additional monetary awards for runner-up teams.

Six Knox students competed, and four were part of the top five teams winning monetary awards to be shared among the team members. Knox students participating were:

  • Jessica Wise, a senior from Cary, Illinois, first place, $7,000
  • Garry Barton, a senior from Galesburg, Illinois, third place, $2,000
  • Zehra Munir, a senior from Islamabad, Pakistan, fourth place, $1,500
  • Rafay Kahn, a junior from Islamabad, Pakistan, fifth place, $1,000
  • Maureen McDonnell, a senior from Centennial, Colorado
  • Mauaz Raza, a senior from Punjab, Pakistan

"It was draining," explains Garry Barton. "Our case was ridiculously long, 30 pages," Barton adds. "But it's amazing how quickly you can start working together in such a short time." The students were given 14 hours to complete their project and present it to the judges.

John Spittell, professor of business and management and executive-in-residence, accompanied the Knox students and served as a guest judge for the competition. He says the overall caliber of students in the competition, and the competitive environment itself was very high. "We are very proud of the outstanding performance and demonstrated skill sets brought to this event by the students from Knox." He notes that the Knox College relationship with the Simon Graduate School of Business continues to expand. "More and more MBA Graduate Programs are interested in students who have a strong liberal arts background that gives them a solid foundation for business school and the business of life."

The Simon Graduate School of Business has a direct admission agreement with Knox students. Select candidates with strong academic potential and regardless of major may be admitted at the end of their junior year to the Simon School MBA program on the condition that they successfully complete their four-year program at Knox.

This is the second year Knox students have participated in the competition and brought home cash prizes. In 2007, seniors Leah Heister and Stephanie O'Brien were in the second place and fourth place teams.

The Knox students' participation in the competition was supported in part by a grant from The James S. Kemper Foundation, Chicago, Illinois.

Also participating in the competition were undergraduates and recent graduates from colleges such as Ursinis College, Villanova University, Boston University, Chatham University, SUNY Brockport, Bucknell University, Elmira College, University of Rochester, College of St. Joseph, and Christopher Newport University.

Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 48 states and 42 nations. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Knox College Team for the Simon School of Business Early Leader Case Competition
Mauaz Raza, Garry Barton, Rafay Kahn, Professor John Spittell, Maureen McDonnell, Jessica Wise, Zehra Munir