Students from Bergen and Essex are top winners in Rutgers Business School's first New Jersey County College Case Competition

Seven students from Bergen Community College won first place at Rutgers Business School’s inaugural New Jersey Community College Case Competition on April 1.

Bergen was one of six county colleges in the region that sent teams to demonstrate their knowledge of finance, marketing and their talent for public speaking before a panel of five judges. Essex County Community College’s team placed second in the competition.

Antony Manyeki, a freshman honors student at Bergen Community College, was recruited by his adviser to be part of his school’s team. And he didn’t hesitate to take the opportunity, which he considered something of a warm-up for what he expects when he gets to a four-year college.

"It’s totally about the real-world experience of applying my knowledge and understanding how to be confident speaking publicly,” he said. "Getting the experience as a freshman is a big help.”

The New Jersey Community College Case Competition, dubbed NJC4, was created for several reasons, including its social impact, which is part of the strategic plan of both Rutgers University-Newark and Rutgers Business School. At Rutgers Business School in Newark, more than 50 percent of students transfer from one of the state’s county or community colleges. The event was also intended to help strengthen Rutgers Business School’s ties with the colleges.

Robert Kurland, associate dean of undergraduate services, said when the event was announced, there was immediate enthusiasm from the county colleges. "It is our hope that this event will help showcase some of the best county college talent in New Jersey," he said.

Rutgers Dean Lei Lei, who welcomed the students and their mentors at the start of the event, described the strong relationships Rutgers has with companies across the country, including Dell and Johnson & Johnson, which are sponsors of an annual supply chain case competition. Lei told the students that Dell has plans to recruit 20 MBA students this year "because of our brand.”

"We look forward to seeing many of you in the near future," she told the students.

The case, which was written by Joseph Markert, an assistant professor of professional practice at RBS, required the students to examine Ikea’s business and to develop a strategy for expanding into Asia, with specific consideration of supply chain issues, pricing and its organizational structure.

As each team presented its case to the judges, the other students attended sessions on LinkedIn, listened to presentations from students and faculty at Rutgers Business School and went on campus tours, including a stop at the neighboring Newark Museum. Jerome Williams, executive vice chancellor and provost at Rutgers University-Newark and a distinguished professor at Rutgers Business School, spoke to the students during lunch.

"It was a really great experience," accounting student Gricelda Hidalgo said after her team from Essex County Community College presented its case to the judges. "I was very nervous. In reality, I don’t really like making presentations. I usually avoid them."

"This was good for me, and it was something other than learning lessons from a book," she said.

In addition to Manyeki, students on the first-place Bergen Community College team were Andrew August, Nile Hagag, Aleksei Kharisov, Michelle Ochoa, Antony Penna and Egnatia Nadia Vaso. Hidalgo’s team from Essex County Community College also included Jonathan Diaz, Anastasia Golubinski, Gricelda Hidalgo, Munim Islam, Forma Joy Kim, Cesar Santisteban and Emmanuel Yanta.

Teams from the County College of Morris, Hudson County Community College, Middlesex and Union county colleges also participated.

The five judges were Frank Giarratano, president, chief operating officer and partner at SGW Integrated Marketing Communications; Brenda Hopper, CEO and state director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers; James Hughes, managing director and market executive, Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management (Merrill Lynch also co-sponsored the event); Arturo Osorio Fernandez, assistant professor of professional practice, Rutgers Business school; and Jennifer Rodrigues, vice president for planning and analysis, group insurance, Prudential Financial.

-Susan Todd

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