DeGroote Professor Milena Head, with MBA candidates Sarah Schweinberger, Michael Widlicki, Shelby Gorelle, and Briana Knowlton, at the 2017 John Molson MBA International Case Competition in Montréal.

DeGroote Professor Milena Head, with MBA candidates Sarah Schweinberger, Michael Widlicki, Shelby Gorelle, and Briana Knowlton, at the 2017 John Molson MBA International Case Competition in Montréal.

January 27, 2017

Cracking the case: DeGroote MBA's excel in competitions, business

Case competitions are an essential part of the MBA experience at DeGroote. They help students sharpen their creative thinking, expand their business acumen, and gain valuable experience in real-world corporate situations. They also prepare DeGroote grads to excel as their careers begin to take shape.

Peter Vaiciunas is one such alumnus who credits MBA case competitions with helping him develop a personal brand and stand out from the pack. Vaiciunas, who earned his DeGroote MBA in 2010, was a member of the School’s winning team from the 2009 Best in Class Invitational Case Competition in Toronto. The team received a cash prize of $10,000 and was also invited to attend the FEI Canada National Conference in Victoria, British Columbia. Now a successful Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Vaiciunas has spent the past two-and-a-half years as an Investment Associate with New York-based Quantitative Management Associates LLC.

“Case competitions are a great way to meet people in the industry you want to get into, and if you’re successful, they definitely raise your profile and create a splash,” he explains. “When we won Best in Class, news articles at DeGroote and across Ontario covered our story, which helped showcase our capabilities.”

For Joel Fox, a MBA alumnus from 2014 and Commerce graduate from 2010, participating in case competitions played a huge role in his professional development. Fox was a finalist at the 2012 Best in Class Invitational Case Competition, and also took part in the 2014 John Molson MBA International Case Competition in Montréal.

“Those competitions provided me the opportunity to take what I was learning throughout my MBA and apply it in more ‘real world’ situations, which required teamwork, decisiveness, and critical thinking – all essential skills in business,” says Fox, now an Associate, P&CB Leadership Program, at RBC in Toronto. “Case competitions also helped develop my confidence in sharing my thoughts and ideas and speaking in front of people.”

In recent years, the School’s track record at national and international MBA case competitions has been exemplary. In 2016, participants celebrated a record number of victories at events across Canada and beyond, including seven first-place, two second-place, and two third-place finishes. DeGroote won the MBA Games in 2016, the School’s third national title in five years, and remains one of the most competitive business schools at events across the country.

“A lot of MBA candidates are attracted to DeGroote because they see the calibre of our students, and they want to contribute to that legacy of success,” says Milena Head, Professor, Information Systems, and Wayne C. Fox Chair in Business Innovation. “We’re home to MBA students from across Canada and around the world, and those who participate in case competitions find it to be a very enriching experience.”

Among other duties, Head is tasked with leading the MBA program’s popular Case Analyses and Presentations (D700) class, which offers a gateway into the wide world of national and international case competitions. Students learn to define problems, gather and organize relevant information, perform necessary analyses, develop feasible alternative courses of action, evaluate alternative choices, and recommend and defend the best course of action.

DeGroote MBA candidate Briana Knowlton says case competitions have allowed her to gain confidence outside the classroom, while also connecting her with senior industry leaders across Canada. Knowlton was a member of the MBA Games team that came first overall in 2016, and recently participated in the 2017 John Molson competition. This year’s affair attracted 36 business schools from around the world, and the DeGroote team of Knowlton, Shelby Gorelle, Sarah Schweinberger, and Michael Widlicki won their division and placed third overall in points.

“Case competitions offer students a challenging and effective learning opportunity to put into practice everything we learn in business school. It feels great to work hard toward something through lots of practice and coaching, and to improve as a team,” Knowlton explains. “Students are able to learn from executives in the field and gain confidence by successfully presenting and defending their ideas”

Andrea Iljkic, a fellow MBA candidate, says many students utilize the DeGroote Experience Fund (DEF) in order to travel far and wide for competitions. Supported by the generosity of alumni and corporate donors, the DEF offers financial support to DeGroote students or student teams for national and international competitions, conferences, leadership workshops, and a wide variety of events. Iljkic has used the DEF for case competitions in Ontario, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and soon, Colorado.

“Without the assistance of the DEF, many of these experiences would not have been possible for me,” says Iljkic. “I've gained a lot of confidence when it comes to breaking-down problems and structuring solutions, working under pressure, and presenting strategies more confidently. I feel honoured to have been supported by our DeGroote community in furthering my MBA experience.”

Interested in applying to a DeGroote MBA program? Read more about admission criteria and application deadlines for 2017. Current MBA candidates: Learn more about participating in case competitions by contacting Milena Head, Professor, Information Systems, at