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Three-peat in D.C.

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April 21, 2016

By Annie Dittberner '17

(Left to right) Precious Drew, Joby Nolan, Nick Liemandt, Ingrid Pfefferle, and Allison Steen.

For the third consecutive year, the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University Society for the Advancement of Management (S.A.M.) Case Study Research team finished first in its division in the S.A.M. Case Study undergraduate competition April 7-10 in Arlington, Virginia. 

This marks CSB/SJU's fourth title in the past five years. 

"It's a great reflection on everything that we are able to do here," senior Nick Liemandt said. "Whether that's the clubs, liberal arts experience or learning how to work as a team and really take advantage of every opportunity. To represent our school in a national competition was a great experience." 

The team included Liemandt (senior, global business leadership, Cottage Grove, Minnesota); Allison Steen (senior, global business leadership, Eden Prairie, Minnesota); Ingrid Pfefferle (senior, global business leadership, Northfield, Minnesota); Precious Drew (sophomore, global business leadership, Minneapolis); and Joby Nolan (junior, accounting, Hastings, Minnesota). 

Nineteen schools were part of the competition. The schools were broken into three different divisions with CSB/SJU competing against six other undergraduate colleges in their division. 

Research and experience

In January, S.A.M. presented CSB/SJU and other competing teams a case study from an actual company. This year's case involved Target, and the team worked together to develop three recommendations to improve the company. 

"Some of their [Target] problems that they've had in the past have been supply chain issues in Canada, e-commerce and also their data breach a few years ago," Liemandt said. "Our goals were to look at their supply chain and to also build customer engagement." 

Over the course of a few months, Liemandt and his teammates developed recommendations focused on improving Target's supply chain, eliminating the store's lack of customer loyalty and enhancing a customer's in-store experience. 

"We came up with ways to ship from store and pick up orders in store," Liemandt said. "We also created a tier loyalty program and implemented a 'SmartCart' where a tablet is placed on a shopping cart to help organize a customer's shopping list and present them with other ways to enhance their overall shopping experience." 

The students researched the company, interviewed employees, analyzed the case information and then designed strategic recommendations. It all calumniated with a 15 minute presentation by the team in front of judges. 

"It was a great learning experience for all of us," Pfefferle said. "We all had different ideas, but making sure we picked the right three was really important." 

Home court advantage

Since Target headquarters is in Minnesota, Pfefferle said it gave the CSB/SJU team an advantage over out-of-state teams who weren't as familiar with the company. 

"As business students in Minnesota, there are a lot of good companies but Target is one of the main employers in Minneapolis," Pfefferle said. "We were excited about that and we were then able to talk to some past S.A.M. team alums and ask them about what they think of the company. That helped better our understanding." 

The team also conducted a mock presentation in front of a panel of Bennie and Johnnie alums. 

"A lot of them were past S.A.M. team alums," Pfefferle said. "It's just another illustration of the strong alum network we have. Their feedback helped us look at the big picture. We needed to figure out how we work best together and the different strategies we could use." 

As the competition drew near, the team utilized an advisory board made up of CSB/SJU sophomores and juniors who provided them with recommendations and feedback leading up to the competition. 

"I think it was a really good experience for all of us in terms of presenting, getting immediate feedback and being able to respond to questions," Pfefferle said. "[First place] was reassuring considering how much work we did. It was really rewarding because we put so much time and effort into our presentation and research."