Smeal team wins U.S. competition, moves on to global final in Paris
University Park, Pa. - A team of undergraduates from Penn State's Smeal College of Business is headed to Paris to represent the United States in the international final of the 2009-10 Danone TRUST, an international business simulation challenge for college students from 10 countries.
(Media-Newswire.com) - University Park, Pa. - A team of undergraduates from Penn State's Smeal College of Business is headed to Paris to represent the United States in the international final of the 2009-10 Danone TRUST, an international business simulation challenge for college students from 10 countries.
Three teams from Smeal competed in the first round of TRUST in January at Dannon headquarters in White Plains, N.Y. They were tasked with acting as the board of directors of a Danone subsidiary, simulating three years of business. Of the 14 teams that participated in this first round, six were selected to move on to the U.S. TRUST finals, including all three teams from Smeal as well as a team each from Columbia University, New York University and Southwest Baptist University.
In the next round, each of the six remaining U.S. teams was then assigned a real Danone project with economic and social objectives. They worked together with local Dannon managers for more than a month before returning to Dannon headquarters to present their recommendations to Gustavo Valle, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Dannon, and other top-level executives. With input from all Dannon employees, the executive judges chose Smeal's Sapphire Solutions team to move on to the international finals on April 15 and 16.
"I'm so proud to have a team from Smeal chosen to represent the United States in a global business competition," said Smeal Dean James B. Thomas. "I'm always saying that we have the best and brightest students of any business school at Smeal, and this demonstrates that again. I can't wait to see them perform on the world stage."
The members of Sapphire Solutions credit their success to their ability to work as a team and prioritize. With their schedules full of classes and myriad other extracurricular activities, the team did most of its preparation between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.
"The competition has been great and it portrayed what team work really can accomplish," said team member Mike Sulkosky. "As a group we accomplished things that none of us could have accomplished alone. It really is a testament to what synergy is."
The competition also provided the students with exposure to aspects of business outside their majors.
"Dannon gave us a very broad problem to work on, specifically one that required knowledge from a wide range of areas," said Christopher Gray, another member of Sapphire Solutions. "Learning to think from the different perspectives of a marketing or production manager, for instance, has been a valuable experience."
Their work ethic, teamwork, and ability to take a cross-functional approach to problem solving made an impression on their faculty adviser, Fred Battaglia, associate director of the Sapphire Leadership Program.
"It certainly comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with Penn State that a team of our students has distinguished itself in this competition," said Battaglia. "It has been a privilege to see them transform into the authentic, visionary leaders that the world so urgently needs."
This is the seventh year that Danone has held this competition, but the first year that the United States has participated. The other countries taking part in the global final are Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia and Turkey.
"I'm really eager to see what the other countries have to offer at the global competition," said team member Theresa Piazza. "The international competition will be a great opportunity for our team to broaden our horizons globally and see how the teams from other countries think about business issues."
In addition to the opportunity to compete against business students from all around the world, the teams that advanced to Paris will have the opportunity to interact with Franck Riboud, chairman and CEO of Danone.
"This is a fabulous opportunity for these students to gain some international exposure and get a glimpse of how multinational corporations operate," said Shaun Knight, director of educational leadership at Smeal. "Coupled with the simulated case and the real Danone project from the previous rounds, the entire process has been a great experiential learning event for all of the students who participated."
The members of the winning Sapphire Solutions team are all enrolled in Smeal's Sapphire Leadership Program, an honors program at the college focused on developing leadership skills through specially designed courses and a multi-semester project. In addition to Gray, Piazza, and Sulkosky, Smeal students Courtney Powell and Catherine Robertson make up the Penn State team that will represent the United States in Paris.
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