Students from County College of Morris reacting to their first place win.

Getting a sense of the business world

Teams from Morris, Hudson and Mercer were the big winners in Rutgers Business School's annual case competition for county college students.

A team of students from the County College of Morris won top prize in the annual New Jersey County College Case Competition at Rutgers Business School.

The team – made up of sophomores Anthony Dattolo, William Koenig, Ben DeVenezia, Karen Alvarez and freshman Jordan Rock – delivered a polished 20-minute presentation about Keurig Green Mountain’s business strategy that impressed the seven judges, including three executives from M&T Bank.

Hudson County Community College’s team won second place, and students from Mercer County College, who participated in the competition for the first time, won third-place.

“It was evident that you put a lot into the presentations, Thomas Comiskey, M&T Bank’s regional president for New Jersey and one of the judges, told the teams as they waited to hear which schools were winners. “You raised the bar for participants next year.”

He said one of the things that struck the judges was the “excellent collaboration” the students showed as they presented and fielded questions from the judges. “We would suggest that’s critical to being a good business person,” he said.

Students from Hudson County Community College presenting during the annual New Jersey County College Case Competition.
Students from Hudson County Community College presenting during the annual New Jersey County College Case Competition. The team won second place, behind County College of Morris.

The students were asked to analyze Keurig’s single-serve coffee brewing business, identify its challenges and develop a strategy to ensure the company continued to grow amid increasing competition in the at-home marketplace. The case was written by Joseph Markert, an assistant professor of professional practice at Rutgers Business School.

In addition to the strong collaboration, Comiskey said the judges liked the confidence, creativity and resourcefulness demonstrated by all of the students.

Dattolo, a member of the County College of Morris team, said the students spent “a lot of long nights” working together, studying the case carefully and narrowing down their ideas for enhancing Keurig’s business model.

During their presentation, the students deftly handed off parts of the case to one another, their talking points guided by professional-looking slides and an easy command of Keurig’s market share and a confidence in their ideas for driving the company forward.

Comisky said the Morris County team's ability to answer questions from the judges and the clarity of their answers differentiated them from the other teams and reflected how well-prepared and confident they were with the case. He said the team's financial analysis was also "very impressive." 

“It required us to go out of our comfort zone,” said Matthew Feeney, a student at Sussex County Community College, “but if you can’t do that, you’re not going to succeed.”

Second-place winner Hudson County Community College was represented by Syed Ali, Bernadette Barnes, Nasar Qadir, Victor Sedlacko and Jessica Sepulveda. Students Gianni Chell-Gonzalez, Megan Connor, Marcelo Suquilanda, Aaron Van Cleaf, Boris Urgiles and Michael Whelan won third place for Mercer County Community College. Teams from Ocean, Essex, Sussex and Bergen, the top winner two years in a row, also participated in the April 13 competition.

Matthew Feeney, a freshman who was chosen by faculty to represent Sussex County Community College, said the prospect of the competition was initially “intimidating.”

“It required us to go out of our comfort zone,” he said, “but if you can’t do that, you’re not going to succeed.”

For the second year in a row, M&T Bank sponsored the event and provided teams with “ambassadors” who helped to prepare the students, most of whom were new to case competitions.

The case competition is a mainstay of the business school education, giving students an opportunity to apply skills and knowledge to a case that is designed to reflect a problem or challenge that could arise in a real business. The experience gives students a sense of what it’s like to make decisions at a corporate level.

And since more than 50 percent of students attending Rutgers Business School-Newark transfer from one of the county colleges, the event helps to strengthen the school’s connections with the county colleges by providing their students with a memorable learning experience.

The judges at the New Jersey County College Case Competition.
The judges included area business professionals, including Paula Mandell (center), M&T Bank's senior vice president, area executive. Photos by Fred Stucker.

Clay Scovill, a commercial banker with M&T, said he met with the team from Bergen County Community College – two time winners of the NJC4 – at the start of their preparation and then again just days before the competition. “I was impressed with how much the team had evolved and how they found a role for each student based on their strengths,” he said.

“For me, this is what we do every day in the business world,” he said. “It’s nice to see an entrepreneurial mindset among students who are trying to figure out where they fit in the real business world.”

Students on the winning teams won cash prizes – $500 for first place, $400 for the second and $300 for third and will receive $1,000 in scholarship money if they decide to attend Rutgers Business School.

The competition was judged by Comiskey; Aaron Anglada, M&T Bank’s vice president of the commercial banking division; Paula Mandell, M&T Bank’s senior vice president, area executive; Frank Giarratano, president and COO, partner SGW Integrated Marketing Communication; James Hughes, managing director, market executive, Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management; Arturo Osorio, assistant professor of professional practice, Rutgers Business School; and Jennifer Rodriguez, vice president, planning & analysis, group insurance, Prudential Financial.


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