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A ‘dream team’ for strategic pitches

On weekends, student Spencer Murray wakes up at 6:30 a.m., buys coffee and hunkers down in Dodge Hall, where he spends hours analyzing and pitching mock marketing plans to alumni and professors who judge his performance.

“I’m learning about different aspects of business that you can’t learn by reading a textbook,” said Murray, a junior finance and accounting major. “There’s nothing in class that challenges me in this way.”

The weekend work-a-thons serve as practice for business case competitions. Murray is part of a 12-member undergraduate student organization — Huntington Management Consulting — that gives students experiential learning opportunities in management consulting and strategy through intercollegiate competition and volunteer work for local firms and nonprofit organizations.

The work by Murray and his colleagues paid off on April 16, when the team took first place in the annual Northeast District Student APICS Case Competition at Quinnipiac University. The students — Thomas Ackerman, Stefanie Barron, Daniel Wittstein and Murray — bested undergraduate teams from seven other institutions, including Rutgers University and Bryant University, in developing a supply chain management strategy for a large agricultural products manufacturer.

“These students are elite academic athletes,” said associate professor of international business and strategy Raymond Kinnunen, the club advisor, who has guided students to 15 first-place victories over the last 14 years. “Their drive, commitment and determination are all words you would use to describe an athlete on a football field or a basketball court.”

The students — whose success led competitors at other universities to call the Northeastern club the “dream team” — have a strong record in competitions held all over the world. They snagged first place at The Marketing Summit held at Wake Forest University in February, for example, and won the Stockholm School of Economics International Case Competition in 2009.

“We’re getting our foot in the door because of this experience and making a name for Northeastern’s business school,” said club president Rani Pimentel, a senior entrepreneurship and marketing major.

Networking and receiving advice from alumni — many of whom work for large corporations such as Microsoft and Target — during weekend practice sessions is an invaluable perk of joining the consulting club, she said.

“We’re getting face-time and direct feedback,” Pimentel said. “It’s important to be part of that network.”