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Three teams recognized during graduate business competition

When Rachid Benjebbour and his teammates prepared for the University of Houston-Victoria Strategic Master of Business Administration “Best in Class” competition, they started by collecting all the data they could find.

“We looked at everything from the history of the company to its current stock value as well as retail and online sales,” Benjebbour said. “It was a lot of data to crunch, but we took the time to really sort through it and understand the company’s current status before we started to develop an analysis and plan.”

Rachid Benjebbour

Benjebbour and his teammates were one of three teams that won “Best in Class” for the UHV School of Business Administration’s Strategic MBA capstone course “Seminar in Strategic Management.” Students in each of the course’s three sections formed teams and analyzed a real company in order to develop detailed recommendations to help it excel in current competitive environments. The teams submitted their analyses online or presented them in class.

This fall, students analyzed GameStop, a video game retail company based in Grapevine. The company sells video game hardware, physical and digital video game software, and video game accessories, as well as mobile and consumer electronics products and other merchandise. 

“For several years now, we focused on Texas-based firms, and we often look for firms in industries that are experiencing changes or challenging environments,” said Peggy Cloninger, UHV professor of management and chair of the Department of Strategy and Decision Sciences. “For example, GameStop, as a retailer, is dealing with the increase of e-commerce. It’s also dealing with new platforms such as games on phones and new innovations like virtual reality headsets.”

The “Best in Class” competition replaced the MBA Case Conference last year to help UHV graduate students who don’t live and work near the university’s locations. The three faculty members teaching the Strategic MBA capstone courses believe the team project is a critical element of the class and agreed that a “Best in Class” competition would help their students as much as a face-to-face competition.

The winning teams were: 

  • Denedra Brown-Finley and Gaurav Srivastva of Katy, Ankur Sheth of Richmond and Mina Rod of Houston
  • Rachid Benjebbour of Richmond, Amber Machacek of Victoria, Daniel Padron of Fulshear and Hunter Linn of Houston
  • Annerys Falcon-Herrera and Disengomoka Tezzo of Sugar Land, and Rafiu Olutunde of Katy 

To be successful, teams must research the company, its key competitors and the industry, Cloninger said. From that research, students need to draw upon everything they’ve learned in their classes to analyze their research and develop high-quality recommendations to help the firm capitalize on opportunities and respond to threats in a competitive environment. The final reports are 65 to 100 pages long. 

Peggy Cloninger

As Benjebbour’s team prepared, it was able to divide up tasks and meet weekly to review work. As the team members developed and chose the best recommendations, they compiled three to five pages of notes on each suggestion. Each member had to draw on what they learned during the previous years studying at UHV.

“We would not have done nearly as well as we did without the knowledge we gain from our previous courses,” Benjebbour said. “The project was a long process, but it helped us to see how these tools and knowledge could be applied in our careers. It’s a great program with outstanding faculty and an excellent curriculum.”

As Thanksgiving approached, Benjebbour had to visit his mother, who lives in Casablanca, Morocco, after she suffered a stroke. Even though the team was working hard to prepare for the upcoming presentation in December, that event didn’t affect the group’s performance. He was able to use the internet to maintain contact with his team and keep working on the project while he was overseas.

“There were times when it was difficult, but thank God, we were able to keep pushing and worked around the circumstances,” Benjebbour said. “We were aiming for first place, and we were eager to get there! We worked hard, and it paid off. They were an outstanding team to work with, and we are all thankful for the results.”