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Accompanied by contest judge John Kramer, who is the vice president of the Global Knowledge Center for Toyota Motor sales, Kellogg Part-Time MBA Program students (l to r) Uday Yadati, Raju Sarma, Kristin Conklin and CorDell Larkin pose with their winning trophy from the Global Business Challenge, sponsored by University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.

Kellogg Part-Time MBA Program students win consulting competition

Experiential focus of Kellogg curriculum allows team to excel in contest by bringing together theory and practice

By Aubrey Henretty

4/11/2007 - A team of Kellogg Part-Time Program students recently won the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business Global Consulting Challenge, an opportunity for students at top-ranked business schools around the world to showcase their consulting expertise. The Kellogg team — Kristin Conklin, CorDell Larkin, Raju Sarma and Uday Yadati — bested groups from the London Business School and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, among others.

The competition allows students to work with a participating client on a real-life problem and requires teams to present their suggestions to industry and consulting experts as well to the company. This year’s client was Lexus, the luxury division of Japanese auto maker Toyota Motor Corporation.

“The three-tiered approach to the competition gave us feedback not only from Lexus, but also from the industry experts and consultants,” said Conklin, who described the challenge as a “great experience.”

Though the details of the winning proposal, and the problem it addressed, are confidential under the non-disclosure agreement signed by the team, the challenge’s judging criteria leave little doubt that the rigors of the Kellogg classroom gave the school’s students a competitive edge: “Depth, completeness and precision” of qualitative and quantitative analysis, “understanding of the client’s culture” and “team effectiveness” were among the long list of standards.

Part-Time MBA Program Assistant Dean Megan Krueger ’90 said that by competing in (and winning) the challenge, the students distinguished themselves from an already accomplished group. “Although part-time students have entered some of these competitions in the past, it is not a frequent occurrence,” said Krueger, who is the director of student affairs for the part-time program. She noted that while part-time students enjoy the competitive spirit of representing Kellogg in these competitions, these students also face rigorous demands that their peers in full-time MBA programs typically do not, such as actively working while balancing academics and family responsibilities.

“These competitions often take students out of town, so not only do the students have to prepare a competitive presentation, but also have to travel on their own,” added Krueger. “With their professional lives, academic demands, and for many, family obligations, the word ‘challenge’ takes on a whole new meaning!”

But according to team member Sarma, students in the Part-Time MBA Program are uniquely qualified to take on extra projects. “You have to be great at managing your time to be in the program, because you want to be great at school and you want to be great at work,” said Sarma, adding that the integrated nature of the part-time program can also be a time-saver. “You can leverage your classroom experience at work and your work experience in the classroom.”

Dean Krueger is not fooled by Sarma’s modesty. “Merely entering these competitions can be a large commitment for any student team, and we are proud of all of our students for making such an effort,” she said. “Winning the competition for Kellogg is an extraordinary accomplishment given the demands these students have on their lives already.”