Business students showcase strategy skills at conference

Conference Winners
UHV business students Erick Pharis, left, Sana Irshad, Komal Ram, Elizabeth Tenorio and Ashal Calder pose on Saturday after presenting their project during the 36th UHV Bachelor of Business Administration Case Conference. The students won first place at the conference.

When the winning team was preparing its presentation for the 36th University of Houston-Victoria Bachelor of Business Administration Case Conference, the team members decided to take an uncommon approach from the typical car dealership business model.

Ashal Calder and Komal Ram of Cypress, Sana Irshad of Richmond, Eric Pharis of Sugar Land and Elizabeth Tenorio of Fresno won first place for their presentation on Group 1 Automotive.

Bob Glenn

“The BBA Case Conference was a good chance for UHV’s business students to apply their skills and knowledge learned through the process of earning their degrees,” UHV President Bob Glenn said. “It was impressive to see them pull their knowledge and ingenuity together to offer unique perspectives on the inner workings of an established business. If the results of this conference are any indication, I am sure they will do well in their careers.”

The UHV School of Business Administration held the May 4 conference at the West Houston Institute for the first time. This is the first time the conference has been held away from a UHV campus or teaching center. Every semester since 2007, students enrolled in “Strategic Management,” the capstone course of the BBA program, have attended the conference and competed as teams in the presentation of a company case analysis.

Jifu Wang

“The students participating in the BBA Case Conference brought quality work to the table,” said Jifu Wang, associate dean of the UHV School of Business Administration. “Their analyses brought unique perspectives to a well-known business in the Houston area. We are grateful for the continued support of Chairman Bingxin Wu for his continued financial support of the conference and Zach Hodges, Houston Community College president, for waiving the facility fee for the West Houston Institute.”

This year, 122 students in 26 teams analyzed the business practices of Group 1 Automotive, an international Fortune 500 automotive retailer with automotive dealerships and collision centers in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Brazil.

“The BBA conference is a great experience that students can remember for a long time and make them proud of their accomplishments at UHV,” said Kaveh Moghaddam, a UHV assistant professor of management who taught the winning team. “The winning team did a fantastic job and had an outstanding presentation at the conference. It is really enjoyable to see my students performing well, and I am very proud of them.”

Kaveh Moghaddam

Part of what made the team’s presentation successful was its cooperation and teamwork, Tenorio said. The project is divided into different sections, and each section has different parts. Rather than have one person in charge of a whole section, the team members cooperated in each section to pull the pieces together.

“We all did our part and kept in touch through weekly phone conferences and texting throughout the week,” she said. “I knew we had done a good job, so I thought we might make the top three, but I didn’t expect to win. It was a wonderful surprise.”

When the team first began the project, Calder thought of car dealerships as something akin to Blockbuster video rental stores that went out of business because the company didn’t adjust to changing trends. Once the team started looking for ways to improve the business, he considered looking somewhere other than the sales floor.

“Dealers may have vehicles for sale, but the real unique things they offer are service such as maintenance and repairs for the vehicles they sell,” Calder said. “The problem is that people don’t want to go to dealers for those services, so our recommendation was to focus on improving that to capture more returning customers. If they could get enough service customers, a dealership could survive, even if most customers started buying cars online.”

In addition to the competition, students also listened to a keynote presentation by Mike Sullivan, director of governmental and public affairs at Group 1 Automotive. During his presentation, Sullivan shared a series of valuable tips with students and emphasized the value of networking and volunteering.

Other teams placing in the BBA competition were:

  • Second Place – Danielle Deleon, Elvira Villarreal, Melinda Flores and D’Laci Albrecht, all of Victoria; and Avery Farrell of Richmond.
  • Third Place – Antonio Roman and Jim Navarrete of Katy, Ashtad Boomla of Sugar Land and Katia Cueva of Houston.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.