More Than a Case

Nervous and a bit unsure…

Two feelings I endured while walking into the office of Professor Marc Ankerman. A couple of weeks before the start of the MBA program, I received an email from him about potentially representing The Ohio State University at the 2017 National Black MBA (NBMBAA) Graduate Case Competition. I chose to attend The Ohio State, in large part, because of the legacy built by David Harrison and Fisher’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion, so I was eager and hopeful for a chance to represent the University.

Professor Ankerman is… animated. He sat me down and asked me why I was interested in competing. He shared that the competition would be fierce. The team would have a month to prepare the case, while also acclimating to the program. Toward the end of the conversation, he extended his hand and offered me a spot on the team.

I would never have guessed that my decision to accept his offer would be one of the most transformative and rewarding experiences of my life.

Nervous and a bit unsure…

Two feelings I felt at the start of the MBA program. Coming from a small liberal arts university, I wondered if I belonged in the program. Have you ever heard of the “Imposter Syndrome”? Imagine going from a school without a football program to The Ohio State University—100,000 football fans pack out the stadium for home games. 100,000.

Growing up, my mother worked late nights to provide me a better life. She taught me about grit, hard work, and sacrifice. She always told me she believed in me. I leaned on her words as I felt pulled in every direction as a first-year MBA. New city. New school. New classes. New friends. Mixers. Info sessions. Interviews. Interviews. Interviews. Add to that the Case Competition… and attempts at a personal life.

It’s almost funny even mentioning a personal life. I bought football season tickets and didn’t make it to one football game. Looking back, some of the only things that kept me sane were my 5k and 10k runs through the trails. During those runs, I would often wonder if I had made the right choice about getting my MBA and if I had what it takes to succeed in the program. After my runs, I would call my mother and she would tell me she loved me and to keep at it. I needed that.

Nervous and a bit unsure…

Two feelings I felt waiting as the announcer called out the 10 teams that would compete in the final round of the NBMBAA Case Competition. Honestly, I didn’t expect to hear our name called. I had put my heart into preparing the final deck, but top schools from all over the country were there competing for their share of $50,000. Cornell was there. So was NYU.

I remember looking over to Professor Ankerman in disbelief when they announced that we had made it to the finals. Riding up the elevator, tears welled up in my eyes. When I finally got a minute alone, I called my mother. Crying over the phone, I told her we had made it to the final round. I had done it. I couldn’t hold back the tears. She told me she wasn’t surprised.

Thinking back, I can’t help but laugh. I would have never imagined that at 25 years old, I would be crying to my mother about a case competition. But it was so much more than a case.

It was so much more…

I went on to win one of ten Best Presenter awards at the competition. Later in the year, I was privileged to captain my own team in KeyBank’s 14th Annual Minority MBA Student Case Competition in Cleveland. My team took first place in Cleveland and it was the first time Fisher had won that competition in over a decade. We brought trophies back from both competitions, and I personally placed each of them into the trophy case on the first floor of Gerlach Hall.

As a two-time National Case Competition Finalist and Best Presented Award Recipient, I am no longer nervous nor unsure. I know I belong. Case competitions changed my life. Professor Ankerman changed my life. David Harrison changed my life. The Fisher College of Business changed my life.

Will you let them change yours?