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From left: Michael Unton '08, Todd Cruise '08, Amanda Sammons (organizing committee co-chair for Rice University), Elizabeth Gipson '08 and Jimmy Bennett '08 celebrate the Kellogg team's win of the Rice University Marketing Case Competition.

Kellogg students win Rice University Marketing Case Competition

By Aubrey Henretty

2/5/2008 - Kellogg students Jimmy Bennett, Todd Cruise, Elizabeth Gipson and Michael Unton (all '08) took home the top prize in the 8th annual Rice University Marketing Case Competition, held Jan. 25-26 at Rice's campus in Houston, Texas.

In this year's contest, the Kellogg team competed against students from other top business schools - including the Chicago Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Yale School of Management - to solve the case of One Laptop Per Child, the nonprofit initiative meant to bring affordable laptop computers to children in developing nations.

"The big issue for the $100 PC is that they launched with a great deal of fanfare in 2005," said Unton, noting that at the time, everything seemed to be going right for the nonprofit: With so much publicity and technological breakthroughs that promised to keep costs down, OLPC looked like a sure thing. But then, said Unton, the program mysteriously failed to take off. "This is a marketing problem," he said.

The students had just 22 hours to find a solution.

"We started at 2 p.m. on Friday and had to stop at noon the next day," said Cruise, a co-chair of the Kellogg Marketing Club. After a few hours of deliberation, the team began to script the 15-minute presentation they'd give to the judges the following afternoon.

When the judges announced their decision, Cruise says they told the Kellogg students that the team's assessment of the case stood out as the most "holistic." The team's policy suggestions, which have yet to be published, advised the nonprofit to work with non-governmental organizations to increase awareness of and support for the OLPC initiative in developing nations.