SOM profs win vs. students

At the second annual School of Management Student-Faculty MBA Challenge on Thursday evening, youth was crushed by age and experience.

Before an audience of about 150, a team of five SOM students were narrowly defeated by four well-known SOM faculty members, including former SOM Dean Joel Podolny, despite faculty predictions before the event that the students would come out on top. Although students initially took the lead in the trivia-style competition, which focused on business topics such as stock tickers, financial history and the current economic crisis, the faculty team ultimately eked out a victory of 187,000 to 185,000.

School of Management Dean Sharon Oster moderates SOM’s annual Student-Faculty MBA Challenge. The faculty contestants triumphed against the student team.
Raymond Carlson
School of Management Dean Sharon Oster moderates SOM’s annual Student-Faculty MBA Challenge. The faculty contestants triumphed against the student team.

“I think we did well,” said professor Keith Chen, who attributed the victory to his lucky T-shirt in an interview after the event. “This is ushering in a long era of harsh thumpings.”

SOM Dean Sharon Oster moderated the competition, which was divided into five sections — including trivia, stock ticker identification and “name that person.” Although the students answered the first four questions before the faculty even touched their buzzers, it became increasingly clear as the rounds went on that the faculty — who joked with each other throughout the competition — had the upper hand.

Even the 80,000-point final round question was not enough to give the students — who became increasingly anxious over the outcome — the edge they needed, and the final score left the students trailing the faculty by a mere 2,000 points.

The faculty’s victory came as a surprise to both faculty and students: In a phone interview Tuesday, Professor Andrew Metrick ’89 GRD ’89 said he thought the faculty team was “likely to get crushed.”

“Basically, it’s five really well-informed, good students who are probably out there studying, and a whole bunch of tired, out-synapsed faculty,” Metrick said. “But we are going to fight hard.”

While the students said their advantage lay in their firm grasp of recent business news, the faculty interviewed said they were depending on age and experience to give them an edge over the student team.

The student team — composed of Jon Morris SOM ’09, Eric Shakun SOM ’09, Guru Subbaraman SOM ’09, Joe Glavan SOM ’10 and Brad Galiette ’07 SOM ’11 — was selected based on a written exam and series of mock trials administered by the SOM student government.

Oster commented on the absence of female participants during the competition, at one point suggesting that the faculty team might be performing better if they had women. Although the male-to-female student ratio at SOM is approximately 2:1, only one female applicant was among the 15 to 20 students who tried out for the team, Shakun said.

“If you look at the numbers, women are in the staunch minority at business schools across the nation,” Galiette said. “Certainly that is something which expressed itself in this team. But I think down the road there will be strong representation of women at SOM.”

But Chen said the lack of gender diversity on the teams was troubling, especially after initial team member Oster switched with Podolny following her assumption of the deanship. Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld rounded out the all-male faculty squad.

The event was based on a similar competition run by the business news channel CNBC in summer 2007, when the Yale SOM team defeated the University of Texas to win the $200,000 grand prize.

The stakes Thursday were significantly lower — approximately $750 will be donated by the faculty team’s consensus to the SOM Loan Forgiveness Program, which helps SOM graduates working in the not-for-profit sector and earning under a certain threshold repay their loans.

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