Ole Miss Wins Southeastern Conference MBA Case Competition

Team had 24 hours to formulate an approach to solve a real-world business challenge

The Ole Miss MBA Case Team took first place at the Southeastern Conference MBA Case Competition, which was conducted virtually this year. The team is (from left) Andrew Raspo, Haley Young, Lauren Cherep and Drew Johnson. Photo by Stella Connell/School of Business Administration

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi won first place in the eighth Southeastern Conference MBA Case Competition, conducted virtually for the first time in SEC history and facilitated by the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business at Auburn University.

The winning team is Lauren Cherep, of Chicago; Drew Johnson, of Monroe, Louisiana; Andrew Raspo, of Modesto, California; and Haley Young, of Charlotte, North Carolina. Walter Davis, professor of management and faculty director of the university’s MBA program, advises the Ole Miss team, which captured its first-ever SEC competition championship.

“I almost didn’t believe my eyes when I saw our names on the first-place slide because the moment was so surreal,” Young said. “Gaining recognition for an event like this is special, and knowing all of our hard work paid off is a feeling like no other.”

The competition spanned three days, April 15-17, and began with the four-person teams being randomly drawn into four divisions on Thursday evening. On Friday morning, a representative from Aflac Inc., the case company, presented a real-world challenge to the students, who then had about 24 hours to outline an approach to the challenge while also organizing a related presentation.

“The competition was like procrastinating on level 1,000,” Cherep said. “You had to work under pressure with little to no breaks.

“Although it was stressful, I enjoyed the fact that I was able to work under the pressure. Honestly, I did not realize my own ability to get such a well-done presentation finished in less than 24 hours.”

Senior executives from Aflac, including Frederick J. Crawford, president and COO, made up the judging panels.

The judges considered each presentation, and the top four teams advanced to the finals on Saturday afternoon. The panel was truly impressed by all the teams, said Michael DeVore, vice president for corporate development at Aflac and a leading coordinator with Auburn.

“My favorite part of the competition was the Q&A following our presentations,” Raspo said. “It was really cool to answer questions and talk to the high-level executives from Aflac.”

Although team advisers were not able to communicate with their students after the case was presented, they observed the presentations and were able to offer support and suggestions for improvement after the competition concluded.

“I was elated to hear our team won, and this is a great honor for the Ole Miss MBA program,” Davis said. “The team devoted a lot of time and energy to preparing for the competition, and I was excited to work with them. 

“This is a great experience for our students, as it gives them an opportunity to develop and exercise the creative and analytical skills that will be so important to their professional careers.”

Last year’s winner, the University of Alabama, finished second this year, followed by the universities of Kentucky and Tennessee.

The SEC MBA Case Competition began in 2013 and provides a high-level experiential learning opportunity for SEC business schools to showcase their students’ skills at solving simulated or real-world problems. The 2022 competition is scheduled for the University of Kentucky.