For a school that produces many consultants every year, it is only normal to conclude the first year of studies by organizing a case competition. The Executive Panel case competition is first-year capstone case competition, which is organized at the end of first academic year. The competition is an opportunity for the MBA students to utilize the skills that they have gained and honed in the first year of studies to solve a business case.

This year students representing 13 teams analyzed a new Harvard case study, focused on Rail Transportation in the United States. The case focused particularly on a ‘Class I’ railroad company operating in the eastern United States. The case was quite ambiguous and there was no right answer. The teams had a bit more than two days of time to work on this case. After analyzing the case for two days they had to present their business strategy to a panel of senior alumni and corporate partners.

In addition to the commemorative ‘Nittany Lion’ trophies, the competition winners were awarded a total of $5,000. This competition was an opportunity for the students not only to exhibit the newly gained MBA skills but also to network with alumni and corporate partners who are generous and supportive.

Congratulations to this year’s winning teams!

-Naveen Raj, Penn State Smeal MBA Class of ’16

 


The MBA program is often so rigorous that at times you don’t realize the first year is going by in a flash. It is rightly said that the first MBA year is like a roller-coaster ride. There is no time for contemplation or any other type of thing. You are so busy doing assignments, taking classes or looking for an internship opportunity that when you get some time to breathe, you realize that the first year is almost over. I want to give a small snapshot of how the first year has progressed so far. It all started with an orientation that set the tone for the next two years of MBA life. Then suddenly we were all taking classes and spending most of the time doing our assignments. The first mod is something that many students felt was the toughest. Although it has a few easier classes, others such as Accounting are the ones that challenge a lot of the students. My advice for the incoming class is to familiarize themselves with the accounting concepts, so they don’t have to sweat it out once the semester starts. Mod 1 is also a time when a lot of big career fairs are offered. One of them is the NBMBA career fair. It was held in Atlanta in 2014. I had some success at this fair, as I was able to make a lot of new contacts and expand my network. My advice for the incoming class would be to start early by doing a lot of research on the available positions and companies before going to any of the career fairs. The first mod ends quickly, and by that time everyone kind of gets into the MBA flow.

The second mod started with a celebratory mood for the Indian festival of lights, i.e. Diwali. Everyone participated with great enthusiasm and it was fun to watch fellow classmates dance to some of the latest Bollywood musical hits. We took some heavy quant-based classes in this mod, and learned a great deal from the best professors around. During the second Mod, the campus recruiting process gains momentum with a lot of companies such as Dell, Deloitte, etc. recruiting on campus from the MBA class. My advice for the incoming class would be to start early by working closely with the Career Services. Half way through this mod, every one of us was already looking forward to the winter break that was on its way. A lot of people spent at least a few days outside of State College during the winter break. I went to Miami along with a few friends and enjoyed the Florida sun on South Beach. A lot of people visited the Bahamas on a cruise liner. Before we knew, the winter break was also over.

Mod 3 consisted of a few quant-based classes and it was also the mod where we could select electives. I took a Finance elective titled Financial Analysis and Valuation by Prof. Muscarella, which I enjoyed thoroughly. We also learned a lot about global business through our global perspectives class, which was a base for our Global Immersion. This was also the time when we celebrated the Lunar New Year with great excitement. Most of us witnessed the Dragon dance for the first time in our lives during that celebration. Finally, everyone from the first year class travelled to their global destinations for the global immersion program. The destinations for this year were San Francisco, Lima, Shanghai and Johannesburg. I opted to go to San Francisco, as I am fascinated by Silicon Valley. The trip turned out to be a great experience as we visited many companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook. It was an experience that I will definitely cherish for the rest of my life. This brought us to the spring break, which again went by in a flash and led us to the fourth and the final mod for the year.

We are almost half way through the fourth mod now, and the first years are looking forward to go to various locations for their summer internships. No doubt it has been a roller coaster ride but as we look back at the year gone by so far, we see that not only did we learn a lot of new information, but we also made a lot of new friends. With hopes in our hearts, we now look forward to summer and the final year of MBA life.

-Rahul Ramteke, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16


On April 23rd and 24th, a group of 15 Smeal MBAs attended a leadership immersion trip to the US Marines Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, Virginia. Joining other MBA students from UPenn and Cornell, the group got to experience first-hand some of the training required for Marine officers. The immersion is designed to demonstrate some of the leadership principles instilled through the OCS, understand how decision-making is affected in high-stress environments, and teach the group more about the philosophy of the Marine Corps.

The first part of the immersion was described as “transition training” and happens at the beginning, from the moment the busses arrive on-base. Drill sergeants immediately set the tone of the evening by telling the group the expectation is that they will be referred to by their rank, as it bears the same importance to them as an advanced degree does to us. Furthermore, anytime you were addressed by a sergeant, an acknowledgement response is required. This is the idea of “manners” in the Marines, and is somewhat different than the daily interactions in the civilian world. From here, orders and directions came quicker and quicker during the check-in process and while we had to set up the barracks area for the 1-night stay. This involved gathering some gear we would need in the morning, such as helmets and canteens, and making our beds military-style. Any lapse in how the sheets were tucked or the blanket folded caused us to go back into the night air and run around a large parking lot for a while. This activity served two purposes. First, it created an element of stress for us to operate under. Second, it demonstrated the standard of excellence that is strived for in the USMC, even in activities as mundane and making a bed.

After about 3 hours of sleep, we were greeted by our drill sergeant “hosts” for the morning routine of folding the sheets and blankets perfectly to be turned in. We had some light training as we ran back to a central building with an auditorium. There were sighs of relief as we found we would be sitting for a few speaker sessions about the Marines’ war philosophy and a preview of the day’s events. For us, this announcement meant that there would not be yelling or running, at least for an hour or two. The commanding officer of the OCS talked to us about the significance of the immersion, both for us and them. For us, it was a rare glimpse into the live on-base that most civilians never get. Then he stressed how valuable it was to the Marines that we have that inside-perspective due to likelihood that many of the attendees may be working in the government sector and influencing decisions that affect the USMC in our future careers.

After the morning sessions, the group realized the events for the day would be a great experience, regardless of how much sleep we were working on. We would get to experience the ropes course, a combat-style obstacle course, and a series of scenarios designed to test leadership reactions under constrained time and resources. We were placed on small teams of 4-5 MBAs with 1 Marine as an instructor and mentor for the day to give us support and instructions as we completed the challenges. The ropes course was much as we could expect. We worked our way through a series of obstacles like climbing rope nets and shimmying across a line from platform to platform.
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Any mistake could lead to a 10 foot fall into a safety net below us. The combat course was much more unique. We were geared up with helmets and training rifles as we moved through waist deep water, under barbed wire, and slid through narrow cement tubes. The team moved through as a cohesive unit, just like a team of Marines would.
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The third event for the day was called the Leadership Reaction Course. This was referred to as a “playground” by a couple of the Marines but proved to be a challenging, and sometimes frustrating, experience! As a team, we were given 10 minutes to solve whichever scenario was given to us by our instructor. Although they seemed easy enough, each was made more difficult by the lack of resources needed to complete the task and the mental fog from sleep deprivation. It was designed to test our leadership instincts in areas such as delegation, motivation, and problem-solving.

The immersion concluded with a reception at the USMC museum outside the OCS. This was a great opportunity to talk casually with the new friends we had met from other schools and the Marines that had facilitates such a unique and valuable 2-day immersion. We shared our stories of the day over food and drinks and heard from the various organizers of the trip before everybody parted ways back to our respective cities and schools. The ride home was quiet as everybody slept after an exhausting day, but there was no doubt about the excitement present whenever we discussed this trip. A majority of the attendees will finish our MBA in just over a week, and the Quantico immersion was a perfect chance to make another life-long memory with classmates and friends.
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The 9th annual ACG Cup is a competition for graduate students focused on the field of mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, financial advising, and private equity. ACG stands for The Association for Corporate Growth and is a global organization with over 14,000 members that is comprised of middle-market dealmakers and business leaders who invest in growth and build companies.

In order to qualify for the Cup, our team initially had to place first in a local competition among Smeal MBAs. We were given approximately two weeks to work on this first round case, which centered on evaluating a number of strategic alternatives for a company composed of media and apparel segments. Activist shareholders were pressuring the parent company to divest their apparel section and focus on media, while, at the same time, there was internal interest in making an offer for an outside apparel company. After numerous valuations and scenario analyses, our team ultimately recommended making an offer for the outside apparel company. Following valuable feedback from this round and a first place finish, our team took on the regional challenge in Philadelphia along with finalists from Wharton, Temple, Delaware, Drexel, LaSalle, and Villanova.

The final round took place a month later, and we were given new information about a series of events that had occurred since the first round case. We were also given a new angle to examine the case from, as we were now to take on the role of a private equity firm tasked with making a decision about whether to make an offer for the parent company. Our team recommended a leveraged buyout of the parent company, and provided information about price, the structure of the deal, expected returns, and exit opportunities for the private equity firm. We also evaluated the earlier strategic alternatives discussed in the first case based on the new information we received. Our presentation was well-received by the judges, who were impressed by the range of valuation methods used, our consideration of both quantitative and qualitative factors, and our sensitivity analyses that modeled returns under a range of scenarios. We received constructive feedback as well about areas of our presentation we could improve. At the end of the day, the judges announced the three finalist teams, which were Temple, Wharton, and our team.

The next week, we travelled back to Philadelphia for the award ceremony to hear which place we received. After a networking session and panel on exit options, the results were announced and we took home the 2nd prize award. Wharton received the top honor, and Temple was given 3rd. We were very happy with the results, as, unlike some of the other teams, no one on our team had any private equity experience. We learned a vast amount as a team in a short amount of time, and are incredibly grateful to the sponsor KPMG, the judges, our ACG coordinator Jen Simons, and Penn State’s MBA office for the support. A special thank-you goes out to our finance professor, Chris Muscarella, who provided guidance throughout the competition. We hope a team from Penn State returns for the 10th edition of the ACG Cup next year and exceeds the precedent set by our group this year!

-David DeFelice, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15ACG photo


Weather is an unavoidable topic if you live in State College. I was born and raised in a small city in northeastern China that shares the same latitude with State College. It was a small and cold city with lots of snow in the winter. When I came to State College, I had heard a lot about how much snow State College receives from December to March. As a child, I thought I had seen enough snow until I spent my first winter in State College.

I remember the first snow came in late October. It was a pleasant day in the morning but suddenly got colder towards the afternoon. At that time I was working at the MBA program office and heard people cheer about the first snow. I went to the window and saw small snow flakes flying in the air. When I went downstairs to the MBA commons, I saw my classmates who had come from India and they were so excited and showed me the pictures of the snow. I realized how exciting that moment was to them as it was the first snow fall for most of them. Although I thought I had seen enough snow earlier in my life, I still felt happy because of the excitement.

From December, the snow started to get thicker. I still remember the day we had the heaviest snow in Eastern America. When I woke up in the morning and looked outside, everything had turned white! It was an amazing sight. I almost felt as if I was in a scene from the movie “Frozen” and Queen Elsa was somewhere in State College. Many students in the MBA program gathered together for snow fights and also made snowmen. These have become great memories for me.

However, despite the beautiful scenes, the snow made our lives a little harder. From December to February, I clearly remember the first thing most of the people did in the morning after breakfast was to dig their cars out; people wore heavy boots that were wet and salty. But one thing really impressed me is the professionalism of people who worked even in the snow. For example, the buses were never late for long even in the most terrible days. Also, the snow was removed really fast and clean by the professionals. These made our lives much easier.

Spring is almost here now. As we will spend another year in State College, I will definitely miss this snowy and beautiful winter till the next one. For next winter, I plan to enjoy the snow by taking some photos, and I will absolutely be more professional walking and living around.

-Yufei Han, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16


The 2nd annual Deloitte Supply Chain Challenge is a case competition sponsored by Deloitte Consulting each year. It is a two round structure, with the first round taking place on your individual campus. In the first round, you compete against other teams from your university, with the winning team going forward to the second round facing other universities. This year seven universities participated; Georgia Tech, University of Tennessee, BYU, Arizona State, Carnegie Mellon, and Rutgers, hosted at the UT campus. The first round was a classic Harvard Business School Case focusing on a Waste to Energy Plant on the West Coast. Our team gave a strong presentation, using data only where available, and building a recommendation on how to proceed. After taking first place here at Penn State, we prepared for two weeks before flying down to Knoxville, TN for the second round. The second round started off in an unusual manner. We went down expecting another Harvard Business School case, but we were handed a 2 paragraph Request for Proposal Document. The case was designed as a consulting simulation with Deloitte consulting practitioners acting as supervisors and company executives while checking in with us throughout our efforts. We were tasked with providing a response to a request for consulting services from Vitamix, a personal blender company looking to take advantage or current market conditions in the European Market. We had several deliverables throughout the 16 hours from receiving the case until final copies were due. We worked to find as much relevant outside information to pair with the information we were able to extract from “company executives (Deloitte Consultants). Our final presentation was successful, with our team approaching the pitch with a “This is what we would like to explore for you” method as opposed to making a recommendation. This ultimately helped our team place 2nd overall above The University of Tennessee, BYU, Arizona State, Carnegie Mellon, and Rutgers while placing behind Georgia Tech. It was a honor to represent Penn State and the Smeal MBA program in front of one of our programs largest employers. We would like to thank all of the staff in 220, especially Erik Orient and Sandy Simler, for their support throughout the whole process.

– James Donato, Penn State Smeal MBA ‘16


For the first time ever, Penn State was invited to attend and participate in the 2015 ROMBA MBA Club Leadership Summit. Smeal’s OUT & Allies in Business participated with over 45 MBA Business School’s leaders. The two-day summit, featured seminars, breaks out sessions, discussion groups, guest speakers, and networking opportunities. Throughout the weekend, each business school got to share ideas, best practices and to learn what others top MBA schools are doing to raise LGBT visibility, outreach and awareness at their business school campuses. We got to hear from amazing guest speakers such as Kellogg’s renowned Marketing professor, Julie Hennessey, who ran a workshop on club branding, raising awareness, and gave us ideas they we could use throughout Penn State. We also had the opportunity to hear some interesting trends and facts from the heads of The Williams Institute, an independent research group that focuses on public policy, as well as it gave us the chance to sit-down and strategize with Boston Consulting Group’s business partners and other business school leaders. Overall, the Leadership Summit was powerful, insightful and provided OUT with a lot of tools and resources that we can use and implement within the Smeal community. Most importantly, it provided us with the continuous strengthening of our relationship with the Reaching Out MBA Conference who recently admitted Penn State as affiliate club member.

-Giancarlo Montjoy, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16


Time passes so fast. The first semester has almost finished. Looking back at the last few months, we have gone through many “first times”: first class, first presentation, first team meeting, first career fair, first interview, first offer, first rejection… among all those firsts, my first football game is a special and amazing memory for me.

Penn state is renowned of its football team and Beaver Stadium, which can hold almost 110,000 people at the same time. Also, Penn State is one of the Big Ten. The first football game I went to was vs. Ohio State University. For some reason, Ohio State has been our rival for years. That makes the game very attractive.

The game actually started from the morning of that day. I was having lunch at a restaurant in downtown. When I arrived there, I found most people were wearing white shirts and pasted Penn State logo on their faces. Later I learnt it was called “white out”. Then I found out most people were actually from other cities, and they just came to State College to watch the game. We have such a big club of fans! There were people singing and dancing on the street, selling stuff and playing videos. All of those activities were to attract more attention.

At the same time, people were crowded at the parking areas close to Beaver Stadium to have tailgates as well. You would be so amazed to see their decorations and passion. Thanks to the members in MBA association, Smeal had our own taigate and it was fantastic.

People started to enter Beaver Stadium around 6 pm. I was so astonished when I entered. I can say that I haven’t seen so many people together in my entire life. The Beaver Stadium is huge, and imagine 100,000 people standing there at the same time — wearing white! It was spectacular! I have to admit that was a lifetime experience, and it was definitely worth the ticket. All the people over there are so passionate and excited, they screamed the names of Penn State football players. They shouted out “WE ARE… Penn State”. It felt so good to be one of them, like we are a big family.

After the game started, I couldn’t really catch the points because I didn’t know anything about football. But I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the passion around me. Finally we lost to Ohio State, but as one of our classmates said: we lose with honor. I definitely will go to another game next year.

-Yufei Han, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16


Overwhelmed doesn’t come anywhere close to explaining the state I was in during the first few weeks of the full time MBA program. The hoard of demands from family and school left me with very little time for anything else, including sleep. Supposedly, I lied to myself that I could actually do it all. Sure enough, I started dropping some balls – forgetting to respond to phone calls from my family back in India, skipping meals, and one day I even microwaved watermelon by mistake!!
Life goes on while you’re in school. Many of my classmates have experienced at least one significant life event while in school, and yet, they still kept going. They dealt with the stress, both good and bad, and kept going. We’ve had babies born. Several people got married. Some lost their parents and other family members.
As much as you may try to prevent stress, you’re going to have to learn how to manage it as well. The demands of pursuing a full-time MBA are many. Balancing school, family and fun activities is no easy task. In fact, balancing the demands and managing your time requires sacrificing activities you once never thought of giving up. For me, this meant cutting back on my exercise routine. In order to stay healthy, and manage stress, you must think differently about how and when you train and, most importantly, be creative.
I started to understand the concept of work-life balance during the latter half of my first year in the MBA program. Work-life balance is not actually about mastering everything. It’s about prioritizing. There may not be enough time for everything, so get your priorities right and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t accomplish every single task you’ve set out to do on a given day. Stay positive and be thankful that you have got the opportunity to get back to school – B-School – one thing many people in the world go without. It may seem overwhelming at times, but remember that other people have gone through the same thing you are, and they have succeeded! You will too!
Take those much-needed breaks. Give yourself time to collect yourself when you need it the most, so you can recharge yourself and look at things with a fresh perspective. Be active. Pick up some fun sports. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps relieve stress and you’ll find that the more you get out and exercise, the easier work and school will seem.
Add some life to your days, not days to your life!! Don’t forget to enjoy life. Don’t get bogged down by nuisances of the demands of your academic life. Take time to experience the world around you and appreciate your relationships in life. Don’t forget to squeeze in the things that you are passionate about, that make life worth living into your schedule.
In addition, I’ve realized that the MBA experience becomes less about making the highest grades, and is more about connecting with a diverse set of people, advancing your career, personal development, and developing your passion. Taking some of the pressure off of me to perfect every assignment was helpful in achieving that balance. Although, this is a challenging phase in my life, going through the MBA program is an experience worth living, and it gets better and easier with time.

-Neha Bareja, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15


The end of Module 3 not only meant the happiness of getting through one more session of intense studies, but it also meant that the week ahead was exciting due to our global immersion trip. This year Lima, Johannesburg, Shanghai and San Francisco got voted by the class as the favourite places to explore during the global immersion.

Since I had previously worked in South Asia and China, I wanted to explore the companies in the famous Silicon Valley, hence I chose to go to San Francisco for my global immersion. The week started out badly as our flight got delayed due to inclement weather caused by heavy snow, but we managed to reach SFO just in time for the immersion to start. During the whole week, multiple company visits were scheduled to give us a good insight into some of the leading global companies as well as some very innovative but comparatively smaller companies.

During the visits to campuses of companies like Facebook and Google, I was amazed by the types of facilities that the employees could enjoy while working. This was something I could never have imagined to be a part of the work place especially coming from a heavy engineering & manufacturing companies based out of Asia. For me the campus was more fun than work, but the amount and quality of work the employees are able to put in is just amazing and their huge number of innovative products are a testimony to it.

We also visited some of the smaller companies like Kali and Kinetic Revolutions. While KALI is a helmet and protective gear manufacturing company, something I did not expect to find in the Silicon Valley, Kinetic Revolutions is a prosthetic device manufacturing company. The business models of both these companies was unique and I found it amazing how innovative they are in their product design to marketing and supply chain management. We also visited a winery called Burrell School Winery in the Napa Valley, which houses about 1200 wineries. I had no idea how challenging a winery business could be as the winery had to deal with product variations, manufacturing process control, marketing challenges, environmental effects, all within an intensely competitive market.

The visit gave me exposure to wide variety of businesses with large and small firms in different sectors. The business models and culture at each of these companies were unique and driven by the challenges that they faced in their field. A very insightful trip came to an end in a week’s time and it was definitely one of the very good experiences in the MBA program so far.

-Varun Tiwari, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16


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