Penn State University Park’s graduate student consulting team, EmpowerSci Solutions, consisting of Archie Taylor, Melanie McReynolds (team leader) and Kerry Belton, recently participated in the 2015 Princeton University’s Graduate Consulting Case competition, facing off against 14 other groups from several top-tier universities.

The goal of the competition was for advanced graduates and professional (non-MBA) degree students to be immersed in the fast-paced and stimulating work of management consulting. The competition was prepared in a way for teams to tackle complex and cutting-edge consulting problems faced by the top consulting organizations. Judges sought insight from intellectuals in various disciplines to provide innovative and effective solutions. This competition offered a great opportunity for graduate students to experience first-hand large-scale business management consulting cases as well as the chance to receive a $1000 prize and recognition. Teams were given 48 hours to review case materials and create presentation slides within this time period. Teams readied themselves for the competition by developing strategies and in-depth business analyses.

Teams were grouped into three sets of five for the first round presentations (10 min. talk and 5 min. Q&A). After assessing each team individually, judges decide to advance two teams in each group to the second round. The judging panel was composed of consultants from premier management consulting firms.

EmpowerSci Solutions members (from left to right) Kerry Belton, Archie Taylor, Melanie McReynolds and Competition Judge.

EmpowerSci Solutions members (from left to right) Kerry Belton, Archie Taylor, Melanie McReynolds and Edward Percarpio (competition judge).



Feedback on the experience:

 “So, it was a really good experience! We were selected to participate in the 2015 Princeton University Graduate Consulting Case Competition! We were selected out of numerous groups throughout the country, and now have the opportunity to compete against mostly Ivy League graduate students who have started consulting firms. Where there is a will, there’s a way, ” said BMMB student Melanie McReynolds.

“The experience of preparing for a large-scale business management consulting case and presenting before a panel of judges were great opportunities to test my analytical thinking abilities,” said molecular toxicology student Kerry Belton. “Diving into a completely foreign field can be daunting, but it is a relatively small part of the process compared to the short 48 hours we were given to prepare for our fifteen-minute presentation.”

“This opportunity opened my eyes to alternative career opportunities for scientists. For me, this opened up other windows and alternatives I had no idea even existed. Also, to do this with people I have known for years made it even better. We matriculated through undergrad together and the Bridges program. This allowed us to gel together and work together very well and represent the diversity of our university,” said molecular medicine student Archie Taylor.

What was participating in the competition like?

“The Application process and being selected for the competition was really intriguing. We studied and attempted to learn what consultants actually do and what consulting really means. After getting the case problem and putting together our solutions, recommendations and presenting before the judges, this process really gave us conformation that we are on the right track. The feedback from the judges was unbelievable and remarkable! This gave us the chance to see that our ideas and approaches were on the right track and up there with the best of the best. The judges, who were top consultants in their fields, gave us critiques right-away telling us what to fix in our approach and exactly what we needed to do right way. This experience really solidified that consulting could be a goal that we could accomplish. The overall experience was authentically rewarding, we made many great connections, and we witnessed first-hand what the ivy leaguers do. The issue with consulting is that nobody really knows exactly what to do, how to format or how to go about it. But we found that the Ivy League consulting clubs have information and templates that they passed down year- to -year for their graduate students. They are prepared and can go in to the field and get these jobs. So for us to be there was like we had a front row seat to see and understand exactly what consultants do and to learn from consultants currently in industry. I want to bring this information back to Penn State graduate students, so that we too can be prepared for consulting jobs. The experience from the beginning to the end was beyond amazing. We got to see our visions become reality the exposure was the most valuable part of the experience. I still believe and passionate that T-Mobile would love our pitch, we have a plan that will revolutionize T-Mobile in today’s market!” –McReynolds

“For the most part, I found it very challenging—one of the most challenging things I have done in my life in the sense of preparing for it. But after going to the competition, I found it no different than any other presentation; whereas, it was a different audience, but I was more comfortable after realizing I was around similar people. Most of the other people were scientists as well. This feeling allowed me to adapt easily. I found that preparing for it was the most difficult part and participating in it was the most rewarding part, because it gave you the chance to step outside your comfort zone—to be challenged and to push yourself. That’s one of the things Penn State wants right: to always promote the ability for its students to be productive outside our Penn State community…” –Taylor

“I really enjoyed the challenge and pressure. Our case was about T-Mobile and how to improve its network quality and profitability. You know the thrill of working feverishly towards a very close deadline gets your heart pumping. I really valued the feedback from the judges the most. I never expected to get such great feedback seeing as this was our very first try at a consulting case ever. Cramming in all the business details along with the lingo and jargon of the field was my favorite part. The competition itself was the most nerve-wrecking part, but shortly after we started to present for the judges, I was at ease. Even though we did not win, I am pumped and excited for another try next year. Participating in this competition really broaden my horizons as far as career choices go. Based on the judges’ feedback, consulting is definitely a career I would consider…” –Belton

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