Vying for a Beanpot title is nothing new for the Northeastern University community, and over the years, our business students have helped do so both on and off the ice. Starting in 1997, the Beanpot B-School Case Analysis Competition centered around real-world business problems and challenged undergraduate teams from Boston College, Babson, Bentley, MIT, Boston University, and Northeastern to provide superior solutions to that of their competitors. Led by Associate Professor Emeritus of International Business Raymond (Ray) Kinnunen, many cohorts of Northeastern business students have won these Beanpot case competitions. While the iconic competition ended in 2009, the impact it left on the participating alumni and the school transcended its run.  

Coach K Feature Photo
Led by Associate Professor Emeritus of International Business Raymond Kinnunen, many cohorts of business students have won Beanpot case competitions.

Each competition team consisted of five to seven students and was meticulously selected by Kinnunen, or “Coach K” as he was affectionately known. A spot on the team was highly coveted, and members say they felt a sense of pride and accomplishment to have been named to the roster. Samuel Klar, DMSB'06, recalls, “There was a lot to live up to. My teammates and I felt a tremendous amount of responsibility to uphold the gold standard set forth by previous teams.” Rani Wise, DMSB'11, concurs, saying, “We competed side by side with some of the brightest, most driven, and talented business students at Northeastern. It was truly an honor.” While it was a notable accomplishment to get named to the roster, the hard work had just begun. 

Preparation was the cornerstone of Coach K's approach to success. Klar recounts a famous Coach K line: “I will teach you how to hit the high inside fastball; if you can hit that, you can hit anything.” In essence, the Coach K method was to design practice sessions that would far exceed any challenge presented on competition day. With rigorous preparation, team members were heavily equipped for victory. Wise recalls, “We had to be self-motivated and open to criticism to succeed in the environment. We sacrificed every Saturday and Sunday throughout the semester for practice sessions.” It was not uncommon for teams to spend eight or more hours on Saturday crafting case solutions. On the following Sunday, the teams would present their solutions to a panel of faculty and staff judges for intensive review. 

Hard work pays off

While challenging at times, being on the team had many advantages. “Preparation for the case competition and the competition itself allowed me to look holistically at my business education. It brought all aspects of my courses together nicely,” says Ben Matheson, DMSB'97. The case competition also presented a unique experiential learning opportunity outside of co-op, allowing students to apply their coursework in a competitive environment that mirrored the tenacious business world that awaited outside of Northeastern's four walls.

By many accounts, the Coach K method paid off in both competition and in life. “We were taught useful lessons that we all use as business professionals,” says Matheson, who is now the senior vice president for Global Marketing at Oracle. He says the leadership and critical thinking skills he acquired through the case competition have prepared him to effectively lead Oracle's international marketing team. Notably, his team is comprised of over 1,000 people. 

February 10, 2011 – The winning 2011 team at the Marketing Summit at Wake Forest. From left to right: Professor Ray Kinnunen, Gregory Milne, Rani Pimentel, Andrew Rothbaum, and Chris Rossignol. PHOTO: Mary Knox Merrill/Northeastern University

Wise is the founder and CEO of Rani Wise Consulting, which aims to help small businesses and nonprofits thrive. She credits her experience on the Beanpot Competition team to her current success. “Coach K taught us the fundamentals of successful consulting analysis, strategy, and presentation. It was the formula that won on game day and the formula that now helps me win a big client or project.” 

Hard work also builds friendships and connection

And just as athletic teammates often forge lifelong friendships, the same is true for each business Beanpot team. “Over the years, alumni have worked together at the same companies, helped one another with career opportunities, attended weddings and baby showers, and even two couples met on the team and are now happily married,” Wise says.  

Many beanpot alumni also continue to be engaged with the university and D'Amore-McKim. Matheson has since brought cooperative education opportunities to Oracle. Under his direction, the company has hosted 10 cohorts of co-op students and counting. He is also a part of D'Amore-McKim's Board of Visitors, which helps shape the school's strategic goals and strengthen its relationships and visibility within the business community. 

Klar is now a Portfolio Manager at GMO. Over the years, he has graciously dedicated his time to travel to campus and share career insights with student groups such as the Alternative Investing Group. Like Matheson, he has proudly worked with Northeastern co-ops at his company as well. 

Since their time at the university, many Beanpot alumni continue to contribute their time, talents, and resources to the school because they are invested in the future of D'Amore-McKim. This is a true testament to Coach K's impact as an educator and coach. 

In recognition of Coach K's extraordinary career and as a gesture to honor this extraordinary period, a scholarship has been created. The Ray Kinnunen Scholarship was recently established at D'Amore-McKim to honor Coach K's impact in and out of the classroom. The recipients of the scholarship represent the continued success of the Beanpot alumni community and Coach K's enduring legacy at Northeastern.