It’s not every day in the life of graduate students that they get to compete against MBA teams from four other schools, place in the top three, win a cash prize and finish off the night with a delectable steak dinner with teammates in the city of Pittsburgh. In March, two teams comprised of West Virginia University MBA and M.S. Finance students from the College of Business and Economics did just that.
The teams, each headed up by M.S. Finance students Giovanni Catalano and Andrew Moore, placed second and third at the ACG Cup Competition. Both teams won a cash prize of $2,000 while the winner of the competition, a team from Carnegie Mellon University, took home $4,000.
The ACG (Association for Corporate Growth) Cup is an MBA student case competition for which participating universities organize student teams to analyze and present the results of a case study focusing on mergers and acquisitions to a group of judges consisting of members of ACG Pittsburgh. The schools represented included CMU, Duquesne University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh and WVU.
Eight teams from the College of B&E participated in the competition as a requirement to supplement one of their capstone finance courses. Dr. Paul Speaker, an associate professor of finance at B&E and who led the group to the competition, noted the importance of participating in such competitions — and what kind of growth the students go through during the process.
“The students were given a real case to deal with and were judged by professionals out there in the field, most of whom work for private equity firms and deal with these situations every day,” Speaker said. “Our students were handed a situation to analyze, and the impressed reactions from the judges in their feedback to our students was outstanding. It really gave our students a sense that they had arrived in the professional world.
“Students can only get so much from a textbook, and this experience was something that they all walked away from with the feeling that they had won something.”
Speaker mentioned that even though WVU’s spring break was the week following the competition, a student competitor, Brian Mosteller, had come to the school to thank the faculty for the experience.
Mosteller said of the competition, “The experience was a chance for us to learn how best to incorporate valuation techniques we learned in class and sell our conclusions to practitioners in the private equity world. Dr. Speaker did a great job preparing us for what to expect.”
In the past, Frank DeGeorge was the leader of the group; however while DeGeorge was in Italy teaching a course this semester, Speaker stepped up to lead and coordinate the groups for the competition, as well as the post-competition celebration.
“One of the traditions that (DeGeorge) was insistent on was to have the participating students experience going to an upscale restaurant for the post-competition dinner, a powerful place where deals in the real world are made,” Speaker said. “Just having the students sit in that kind of atmosphere for a meal was really fun for them. I think everyone enjoyed themselves, and it’s a real nice topper for the whole experience.”
WVU has the prestigious honor of holding the first ACG Cup Competition win when the local regional competition was first held in 2010.
Speaker said one aspect that was focused on this year more than any other year was professionalism in the student’s delivery of their results.
“It is incredible what this competition does in terms of helping the students develop their professional demeanor, and it is one comment that we have always gotten during each year of competition – that our students are found to be the most professional group of people that the judges had seen that day,” Speaker said. “Part of this is certainly attributed to the Center for Career Development (CCD) and what Jennifer Bellucci is doing in the center to prepare these students. It’s a great thing to be able to come back and tell the CCD and the MBA faculty that the message of how to be prepared and professional is sinking in with our students.
“We had eight teams compete in the local competition, and it was mentioned up and down the line from the judge’s feedback that our professionalism stood out above the rest.”
Founded in 1954, ACG is a global organization with 58 chapters and more than 14,000 members. Doing business is at the heart of the ACG membership experience. Chapters in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia bring dealmakers together to help them achieve their business and professional goals.