Oregon State University OSU College of Business
OSU’s MBA Corporate Finance team wins the Association for Corporate Governance’s case study competition, the 2018 ACG Cup.

In a regional showdown of corporate financial acumen, the OSU’s MBA Corporate Finance team bested groups from the University of Oregon, the University of Washington and Seattle University to bring home the ACG Cup Northwest.

The ACG Cup Northwest is a case study competition among MBA students placed in a high-pressure setting to solve a real-world business challenge. In the competition students analyze a finance-related case in the field of mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, financial advisory and private equity, and then develop and present a case solution to a panel of industry professionals.

OSU students ― Daniel Pitluck, Brad Stricklin and Patrick McBrien ― presented their winning solutions to a panel of judges comprised of leading finance executives. This was the college’s first year for the win, but the second consecutive appearance in the final round.

Team member Brad Stricklin lays out the bones of the case, describing a company at a crossroads, needing to evaluate whether to stay as a standalone company, merge with another company, or be acquired in a leveraged buyout.

“The company in question for the case study was in the defense industry,” Stricklin said. “We were tasked with analyzing strategic alternatives for the company presenting our recommendation to ‘our board.’ For the final round of judging, we faced a ‘board’ that included the VP of Commercial and Wealth Banking at Umpqua Bank, Torran Nixon, and Stephen Babson, the managing director at Endeavor Capital, a private equity firm based in Seattle,” Stricklin said.

The team members, who all live in different cities, would meet up at coffee shops along the I-5 corridor on Saturday and Sunday mornings and hold a conference call on Tuesday nights to stay on top of their analyses. They studied other business cases, reworking scenarios from past years and sharing news articles. These preparations began in November.

The ACG project solidified one team member’s career interest post-MBA. Dan Pitluck made the decision to work in financial services, after enjoying the intensity of their analytical work. Pitluck attributes the team’s success to these long-term efforts and a dedication to a deep understanding of the material.

“It was easy to tell how much time Brad spent learning the necessary skills to lead our analysis,” Pitluck said. “This was extremely helpful for me, since I do not have an extensive finance background, to have with teammates who would walk through any questions I had.”

The next team goal is to figure out a way to actually celebrate the victory together somewhere after all that hard work.

“We are all excited to finish our MBAs in June, though it’s hard to believe the ACG competition itself has already come and gone,” said team member Patrick McBrien. “The three of us seemed to have a natural unity of purpose. I was floored by their level of commitment. It really felt like we were exercising a professional level of dedication to working on this project, and I think that was borne out by the results.”

The Association for Corporate Growth hosts the annual event among the top two Oregon and Washington teams following preliminary rounds within the College of Business and against other Oregon university teams.

The team was mentored by OSU alumnus Nate Liebler, principal at Newell Craig, LLC and, at the college, by faculty advisor and assistant professor of finance Jonathan Kalodimos. Dr. Kalodimos has integrated preparation for the competition into the curriculum in his Advanced Corporate Finance course.

Through the term, six teams moved through two rounds of competitive eliminations to identify the two top teams to represent OSU in the semi-finals.

“In Advanced Corporate Finance the students learn the quantitative skills necessary to compete, but, importantly, we also give them a framework to evaluate the qualitative or ‘soft’ aspects of business situations and cases,” Kalodimos said. “The soft side of finance is underappreciated skill, but we think developing our MBA students’ understanding of the soft side of finance is crucial for them to thrive in a competitive industry.”


Photo credit: Ideagility

Oregon State MBA grad Frances Chen
Oregon State MBA grad Frances Chen

Frances Chen completed her MBA from Oregon State in June and is currently working at Seattle-based Henrybuilt, a company that specializes in high-end customized kitchen systems. Chen is overseeing the company’s business development, helping them expand and increase sales by developing new sales and marketing strategies. Read about how Frances successfully transitioned from the Oregon State MBA program into what she describes as a “dream job.”

Did you complete any internships while attending OSU?

 Yes, I was working as one of the interns in the OSU Advantage Accelerator from June 2013 to June 2014. I helped clients define their target markets, then helped establish a plan to deliver their products to the market. The experience prepared me for a career in business and defined what I really want to do after college.

What was the best part of your MBA experience at Oregon State?

 The internship was a great experience for me. I was very lucky to meet lots of helpful faculty and staff members there who helped me through the MBA program and become who I am today. Bob Mayes, Jeewon Cho, Shirley Chow and John Turner all provided a nurturing environment for me to overcome challenges and apply what I learned to work and life.

What is the most significant project from completing your degree that you think will benefit you in your early career?

I think the MBA Integrated Business Plan project really helped me learn how to work as a team. In fact, in my current job, I’m responsible for organizing meetings and generating info from all departments to come up with the best possible strategy to help the entire company provide what our clients need. Also, the MBA program overall was a great opportunity and journey to reveal who I really am instead of beating around the bush, not having a goal or not knowing how to pursue my passion.

What advice would you give current and future College of Business students about how to be successful in their program and in seeking a job?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you won’t get it when you are out of college.

Don’t be afraid to slow down and think about what you really want to do.

Don’t be afraid to make decisions on your own. You’ll learn from your mistakes and failures.

Chen presents an award at the 2014 Celebration of Excellence awards banquet.
Chen presents an award at the 2014 Celebration of Excellence awards banquet.

What is your favorite thing about Corvallis?

I love the summer and fall in Corvallis, it’s so lively. Since I am in a big city now, I really miss the warm and small community feeling Corvallis offers.

What’s your favorite thing about OSU/OSU’s campus?

There’s no favorite thing. I love everything about the OSU campus! Especially the people there.

If you knew you were leaving Corvallis for good, where would you go for your last meal here? What would you order?

It’s a great question. I would definitely go to Downward Dog for their happy hour.

Do you have any “secret” talents or hobbies?

I play the piano well, but not for just anyone. I only play for close friends and family.

What are you most looking forward to in your career?

Right now, I have a perfect opportunity to tackle challenges by doing what I love — marketing and sales and learning to be a leader.  am hoping that someday very soon I can start my own business to help people/students get to where they want to be.