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For Wisconsin MBA Students, Ignite Case Competition Builds Real-World Leadership Skills

By Clare Becker

January 21, 2021

Each semester, the Wisconsin MBA Ignite Case Competition gives first-year MBA students at the Wisconsin School of Business a chance to meet with companies, develop business acumen, and build leadership skills.

It’s an opportunity to flex key skills that employers seek—creative problem solving, managing under pressure, and maintaining a big picture focus.

Liana Richardson
Liana Richardson (MBA ’22)

“The Ignite Case Competition was an incredibly beneficial experience, and my favorite event of the MBA program thus far,” says Liana Richardson (MBA ’22), a brand and product management student. “The case helped us to contextualize the skills we’ve been learning in the classroom by analyzing real data and finding innovative solutions.”

Part of WSB’s Ignite Career Accelerator curriculum, this past fall’s case competition paired Dane County businesses American Provenance, Wisconsin Cheese Company, and Curate with groups of students who were tasked with helping the start-up companies address some of their most pressing challenges.

The student teams had just two days to work on the case challenges. After each company made introductions and shared their business challenges, the student groups analyzed the obstacles and developed recommendations to address them. Each group of first-year students was paired with a second-year student who served as a peer coach. The event culminated with each group presenting their final findings and recommendations in front of the participating companies.

Putting leadership at the fore

The case competition is one of several leadership activities that MBA students participated in during Ignite Leadership Week in October. Other activities included a presentation on executive presence with Mike Jackson (MBA ’13), associate athletic director for the Wisconsin Athletic Department, as well as Q&A sessions and working breakout sessions.

We want Wisconsin MBA students to be ready to lead from day one.

—Blair Sanford

Ignite Leadership Week is a key component of the Ignite Career Accelerator, a comprehensive leadership curriculum created for Wisconsin MBA students throughout their two years at WSB. Accelerator courses, events, and activities begin during students’ orientation period and run concurrently with their MBA coursework.

“We want Wisconsin MBA students to be ready to lead from day one,” says Blair Sanford, assistant dean of MBA and master’s programs. “Our approach blends leadership principles with academic learning to build career-focused acumen along with confidence, creativity, and influence.”

Making the case for Curate

Launched in 2016 and geared toward associations, corporations, and construction-based industries, Curate uses a civic intelligence software to create localized, comprehensive analytical snapshots of municipal meetings and agendas.

Blair Sanford
WSB’s Blair Sanford

“Curate’s challenge to the students was to generate ideas that maximized organizational value, recommend a pricing strategy, and make recommendations for product extensions,” says Sanford. “The winning team addressed all three questions.”

Some of the team’s recommendations included changing the way Curate approaches clients and defines value, using a multi-tiered pricing structure the team created especially for Curate and taking a more personalized approach to client consulting. The group also recommended several specific areas for possible product expansion.

“We’re proud of all of the student teams who tackled this project,” says Sanford. “They came away with demonstrable leadership skills and made a real impact for the participating businesses. It’s a wonderful example of the Wisconsin Idea in action.”