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Jindal School Team Wins Inaugural Grant-Thornton Case Competition

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JSOM alumnus Richard A. (Andy) Mangham (in rear), MA 2007, MBA 2012 and MS in Accounting 2013, gave the JSOM team two thumbs up after it earned first place in the inaugural Grant-Thornton Metroplex Case Competition. Mangham, an audit manager at Grant Thornton who served as the team’s advisor, joined (from left) Kevin Nguyen, Tue Tran, Anisa Din and Jordan Anwer in celebrating.

A team of five Jindal School of Management accounting students “rode away” as first-place winners in a new case competition sponsored by the Dallas office of Grant Thornton, one of the nation’s leading accounting firms. The team — comprising graduate student Tue Tran, senior Anisa Din, junior Andrea Alvarez, and sophomores Jordan Anwer and Kevin Nguyen — developed and presented a complex business solution related to problems involving the fictitious company Saddles Inc.

Calling itself ACES Consulting, the group made a 30-minute presentation, followed by a 15-minute question-and-answer session, to five senior accounting executives, hoping to “win” their business. The competition, at Grant Thornton’s offices on Nov. 6, pitted teams from UT Dallas, the University of North Texas, The University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Christian University against each other.

“We are so beyond happy that we won,” says Din. “I am thankful for having a hard-working team and enjoyed the process. It was a lot of work but having the faculty be so supportive was extremely helpful. It’s nice to bring this win to share with the school!”

UT Dallas’ winning team received $7,500; second-place team, UNT, left with $2,500. Additionally, as winners, the JSOM will host the Grant Thornton Metroplex Case Competition next year.

“This was an eye-opening project for us,” says team captain Tran. “It was like having a third part-time job — aside school and our ‘real’ work. And it carried the pressure of a high-level competition. Before the competition, we knew each other from classes and school activities, but since then we’ve bonded much more as teammates and friends.”

The new case competition is a result of the efforts of BS in Accounting Program Director John Barden and JSOM 1991 alumnus Pat McCown, a partner and practice leader at Grant Thornton and JSOM Advisory Council member.

“This offers an amazing opportunity for these students,” says Barden, clinical professor and team coach. “They are judged by high-level executives in the field, giving them practical knowledge from real-world professionals, that they can combine with what they are learning in the classroom.

“I believe what gave them ‘the edge’ in the competition was that they not only brought an accounting and technical perspective, but they realized they had to sell their presentation to the judges,” he says. “This is a unique skill set that accountants now need to have — communication skills and the ability to sell their product.”

Grant Thornton presented the idea for the case competition at a meeting of 32 interested students. Interviews with Barden whittled that number down to five, the required number for each team. Barden said he looked for communication skills, presentation skills and the ability to serve as a team player, when selecting students.

Teams were given the case study Oct. 15, providing them three weeks to prepare their presentations.

“We’re all extremely grateful to Professor Barden for giving us the opportunity to represent UTD,” says team member Anwer. “The competition has been a wonderful experience and has furthered my interest in public accounting. I had the best teammates anybody could ask for, and with the support of the faculty, we were able to secure first place.”

For Grant Thornton, the new case competition offers a way to network with the best and brightest of students, who later might be prospective interns and/or employees, Grant Thornton’s McCown says.

“The public accounting world is highly competitive today in terms of recruiting and hiring students,” McCown says. “This competition gives us a chance to heighten brand awareness of our firm on these campuses, which are important recruiting grounds for us.

“It also gives students the opportunity to demonstrate skill sets that don’t always show in the college classroom. Presenting in front of outsiders instead of in class takes the game to another level.”

On a more practical note, a couple of teammates plan to spend their winnings on car repairs and sleep.

Team member Andrea Alvarez with the trophy

“First things first, I have to spend the money on a new bumper,” Nguyen says. “But aside from that, I am beyond ecstatic we won. Long days, long nights, but it all paid off. I couldn’t have done it without the other four people — whom I must interject are the four most talented individuals I’ve worked with — and the amazing faculty we have at our school. It was great to bring home the gold and represent UTD.”

“I have never felt so much fulfillment for my hard work on a school-related presentation and this feeling was worth every late night spent perfecting our case study deliverables!” says Alvarez. “Our team had the most effective dynamic, which allowed us to work together efficiently and present with a really positive synergy that we are sure our judges could feel. I believe we won because we made our presentation as realistic to a real-world consulting pitch to a client and had all of our information in the most simplistic, yet detailed manner possible.

“As for myself, I will be using my award money in a very practical way; I will actually be purchasing a new mattress, seeing as sleep is the most important for college students' success!”

Donna Steph Rian

Donna Steph Rian is a local freelance writer who is a frequent contributor to JSOM publications. Her credits include having served as a business reporter and retailing columnist for The Dallas Morning News, media manager and senior writer for UT Southwestern Medical Center, and a senior public relations specialist for Texas Health Resources. She wrote about JSOM's healthcare management programs in the most recent issues of Management magazine. Read more articles

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