Big 12

TCU MBAs Win First Place in Big 12 Competition

Big 12 bragging rights just got a little bigger. A team of super-smart TCU MBAs won First Place in the Big 12 MBA Case Competition, the first time TCU has won since joining the conference.

April 16,  2018

By Elaine Cole

“We realized the importance that a win in this Big 12 competition would mean for TCU Neeley. It gave us a huge sense of pride and accomplishment to bring the cup home,” said winning team member Jon Gulbransen MBA ’18. 

The team of Gulbransen, Tony John, Rakesh Kantharajappa and Rachel Manthei “knocked it out of the park,” according to Gulbransen.

Determined to win the trophy for TCU for the first time since the competition began 12 years ago, Gulbransen and John worked with Ed Riefenstahl, director of experiential learning for the TCU MBA program, to make sure the team included first-year and second-year full-time MBAs with expertise in marketing, finance, information systems, technology and communications. 

They ran a full mock case the week prior to the competition and received coaching tips from Riefenstahl to hone their teamwork and presentation.

“We wanted to really understand our team dynamics,” Gulbransen explained. “That experience helped us assure that team members played roles that best suited their abilities. I believe that it truly showed in our presentations as well as Q&A.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that their practicing as a team and being open to coaching made a difference,” said Riefenstahl. 

This year’s Big 12 MBA Case Competition was held at Kansas State. Each Big 12 university (except Texas) sent a team of MBA students to the 12th annual event for a fast-paced competition of knowledge and skills. 

“It allowed us to put our classroom learning into practice to enhance critical business skills,” Kantharajappa said. 

“The competition was nothing short of what we could expect from a Big 12 matchup, but it was the camaraderie and respect of the advisors for each other and their team that made this competition unique for me,” John added.

“The highlight for me was working with such an excellent group of teammates,” Manthei said. “I was excited to interact more with the second-year MBAs, and they did not disappoint. I learned about leading a team under pressure, giving ideas but being willing to go a different direction if it was in the best interest of the team, and the importance of leveraging each teammate’s strengths to produce the best final product. I am proud of all that we accomplished in just 24 hours.”

Each Big 12 team analyzed a business case and presented their recommendations to two different panels of judges, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. 

“Presenting twice allowed teams to refine their delivery,” Gulbransen said. “We were able to make pivotal changes for our second presentation and really knocked it out of the park.”

“This win means a lot to us and the TCU MBA program,” John said. “Bringing the cup home was our way of saying thank you for all the opportunities TCU provides. When your school does so much to support you, it’s only right we bring the championship home.”