As Northeastern’s men’s basketball team prepares for its first NCAA tournament since 1991, another student squadron – this one comprised of top talent from D’Amore-McKim School of Business – just completed its fourth Final Four run in 8 years at Georgetown University’s Business Strategy Challenge.
“What do champions do? They do the fundamentals, and they do them extraordinarily well,” says Ray Kinnunen, associate professor of international business and strategy and coach of the D’Amore-McKim team that placed third at Georgetown. “So I teach the fundamentals, and we’ve done really well.”
To place, DMSB seniors Rose Bleakely, Tori Farley, Jenna Tobey, and Andrea Vezzadini dueled with students from 19 business schools in a pressure-packed weekend aimed at addressing the real business needs of For Love of Children—a Washington, D.C. nonprofit looking to expand educational services. Teams received written cases on Thursday and had until 6 a.m. Saturday to submit detailed solutions. Oral presentations followed in a bracketed format with winners advancing to the final round on Sunday.
D’Amore-McKim had to knock out Villanova University, McGill University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Nanyang University in round one. In the Final Four, the team squared off with University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business—all Top 10 undergraduate business programs according to U.S. News & World Report.
Kinnunen’s students were ready for the grueling competition. Handpicked by the coach after a thorough vetting process ended last summer, their training started in January. With a competition cycle that lasts through April, Bleakely, Farley, Tobey, and Vezzadini had to commit to numerous, intensive weekend-long practices. “You give up your social life,” says Kinnunen.
Students who make the team technically join a student group called NU’s Huntington Management Consulting. Not only do they compete for prize money in case competitions designed around the organizational challenges of real companies, but Kinnunen typically lines up at least one additional company to serve as a practice case during winter training. It all adds up to excellent preparation for a career in business and consulting.
Kinnunen’s students took to calling him “Coach K,” in homage to Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski, in 1997. He even owns a jacket with the name on it. Like the legendary basketball coach, Kinnunen has amassed an impressive collection of trophies in his 19 years of coaching against business school bluebloods like MIT’s Sloan, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton, and many others. To date, his teams have secured 19 wins and hope to make it 20 soon.
Next up for NUHMC is the 2015 Scotiabank International Case Competition, held March 25-28 at Ivey Business School in London, Canada.