Student gains global glory in business contest


By Ashley Yeaman

While most students only see the benefits of their college education after they graduate, one student has found success early in his academic career.

Kitchner, Ontario sophomore Eric Marshall, a pre-business major, was one of six finalists in the 2011 Fall Foundation Business Simulation Challenge, an international competition with participants from more than 280 universities spanning five different continents.

The online competition is hosted by Capsim Management Simulations Inc., a global leader in developing and delivering business simulations.

In the competition, students control a fictitious company with the hopes of garnering more profits than other competitors.

Marshall learned about the competition through a business, the Economy and World Affairs class taught by Dr. Blaine McCormick, associate professor of management in the Hankamer School of Business.

“The foundation simulation [in class] is team-based, so you compete in groups with other students in the class,” Marshall said. “One person might think, ‘We should price this at $30,’ where the other person might think, ‘Well, maybe we should price it lower to try to compete with other companies who are putting their prices lower.’ So it really teaches you how to work in a team.”

McCormick said the simulations are a great teaching tool because they present business concepts in a way students are more familiar with.

“We don’t have a textbook. Students have a keen familiarity with massive, multiplayer online games, be they on Facebook or World of Warcraft,” McCormick said. “This [simulation] is not about shooting accurately. It’s about making good business decisions.”

After students complete the challenge in class, they have the option to compete in the global challenge, hosted by the same company as the in-class simulations, McCormick said.

“You play for about a week [in the global challenge], turning in a decision a day for eight days in a row,” McCormick said. “It moves a little bit faster. In the finals, they compete over two days against each other, and it’s wickedly competitive.”

The qualifying rounds of the global competition ended Nov. 10, and the six finalists were then notified of the weekend final competition, Marshall said.

“It was an interesting experience,” Marshall said. “I obviously didn’t get No. 1, but I was glad to make it to finals.”

McCormick said Marshall did well, especially considering that the majority of participants were upperclassmen.

“We’re in an introductory business class,” McCormick said, “and to give you some feel for how far these students come in one semester, they’re playing people who are sometimes up to three years ahead of them in school. So it’s a very impressive accomplishment.”

In the final round of the competition, Marshall said there were “nerve-racking” moments.

“There was a major price war going on, so people were constantly putting their prices as low as you could go. So it was hard for me. In order to get those profit points, I wanted to put my price higher, but then I had to think about what they were doing,” Marshall said. “So I put my price really low, and it ended up being not so great because [another] person put it lower than me. They sold all of their products, and I was left with some.”

Despite placing sixth in the final round, Marshall said the competition and class simulations have taught him how to make smart business decisions.

For the past six semesters, Baylor students from McCormick’s class have gone to the final round in the international business simulation competition.

Through the business simulations, McCormick said students are able to learn by competing with their peers, which helps them retain what they learn in class.

“In this, you master a set of decisions. You see how you do versus your peers, and you may say, ‘Wow, they’re beating me,’ and you learn to do better,” McCormick said. “I think that’s the key thing, is the feedback loop and the peer teaching.”

Baylor’s tradition of competing well internationally is a testament to the effectiveness of the class, McCormick said.

“It’s hopefully an indicator of the quality of the class and how far we can take them globally,” McCormick said. “We’re an introductory class, and we’re competing on a global stage very successfully.”