MBA students win case competition

Notre Dame MBA students swept first, second and third place at the 2012 Arthur W. Page Society Case-Writing Competition in Corporate Communications this week in New York. According to a press release, the winning projects focused on the 2010 Carnival Cruise Line fire, Groupon’s initial public offering and the Sony PlayStation network crash respectively. Professor James O’Rourke, the faculty advisor for the projects, said Notre Dame has a good track record in the competition, which judges communications cases to be used in an educational setting. “[The Arthur Page Society has] sponsored, for probably a dozen years, an annual case writing competition to expand the body of knowledge, to influence how communication is practiced and taught,” O’Rourke said. “Notre Dame has won the case writing competition more often than any other school.” O’Rourke said the key to success in the competition is to tell a good story. “In writing a case study our aim is never to identify heroes and villains,” he said. “We’re not trying to make management look good or look bad. We’re trying to tell a story that will become the basis for a classroom discussion.” Students who participated in the competition are enrolled in a course called Corporate Communication, O’Rourke said, which surveys a variety of topics within the area of communications. “The students choose from among a world of issues out there bearing down on companies every day,” he said. “These issues might focus on employee communication, media relations, crisis management, investor relations, lobbying and legislative liaison. It may be an image, identity or reputation issue.” The cases created in the classroom are submitted to competitions and can also be published, O’Rourke said. “In the past 20 years, we have published more than 250 cases,” he said. “Notre Dame cases are in use in 131 colleges and universities in this country and about half that many schools overseas.” O’Rourke said students spoke to important people in the business world to prepare their projects. “I provide [the students], if I can, with contacts in the business, and we set up telephone interviews with executives,” he said. “That provides us with answers to questions that aren’t addressed in the business press, and it also gives us an opportunity to ask them about strategy and tactics in dealing with these issues.” Laura Divel, Russell Cramer and Sam DeLemos received first place for their project analyzing the causes of a Carnival Cruise ship that caught fire at sea, lost power and went rudderless in the Pacific Ocean near Mexico for over a week, O’Rourke said. “It was a story well told, but it was also thoroughly documented,” he said. “It was scrupulously fair. They did not look to point blame in any direction.” Divel said the people they contacted for the project set theirs apart. “I think one of the things that set our case apart was that we interviewed [Tim Gallagher], the vice president of public relations at Carnival,” Divel said. “It made it a little more interesting because we got a little bit of what was going through his mind.” Third place winner Shawn Do said he and his project partner John Hsu sought to tell the story of the Sony PlayStation Network crash as fairly and accurately as possible. “The material itself basically talked about when the crash went down [and] how Sony had hidden the facts from everyone for about a week or so,” Do said. “We basically laid out the timeline and how it all transpired.” Divel said the hard work her group put into the project was worthwhile. “It was definitely challenging, and we worked a lot of hours on it, but we enjoyed it,” Divel said. “I think the research was the biggest component of it and making sure we had accuracy because there is so much information out there. Our case was a crisis management case so the news media likes to take that up and publish a lot of details on it, and you have to distinguish what is fact.”

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