McDonough School of Business
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Alumni Return to Test Leadership Communications Skills of MBAs During Executive Challenge

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For the third year, more than 100 executive-level alumni returned to campus to simulate tense boardroom situations with Full-time MBA students as part of their Leadership Communications final exam.

The Executive Challenge invites senior alumni to role-play difficult cases with teams of students, who receive the cases in the morning and spring into action to prepare their arguments and put the skills they have learned throughout the semester to work.

“The Executive Challenge is an experience that our students never forget,” said Evelyn Williams, a teaching professor of management who began the Executive Challenge at McDonough. “Having the ability to practice what they have learned in the classroom in simulated boardrooms with alumni executives who have been in their shoes before prepares them to succeed at a whole other level after graduation.”

The students benefit from the experiential nature of the assignment, coaching from second-year Leadership Fellows, and the feedback provided by the alumni judges.

“It was amazing meeting so many executives, and the adrenaline rush and preparation with my teammates to do some really difficult cases… This was the capstone event for me,” said Timothy Ballenger (MBA’20).

“The Executive Challenge gave me the confidence to know that I could walk into a board room, walk into a conference room, and hold my own,” said Suzi Eckelman (MBA’19).

The alumni also enjoy networking with one another and returning to campus to give back to the student community.

“This is the real world. We’re getting them as close as they can be,” said John Saunders (EMBA’17), senior vice president of OppenheimerFunds. “You’re putting them in a room with a bunch of very seasoned people that are not afraid to challenge them — and have a little fun with it — but at the same time really put them on the spot.”

This year’s Executive Challenge also benefited from the sponsorship of Everfi, EY, and KPMG.

At the end of the day, students received individual, team, and cohort awards for their performance.

Case Winners

  • Case 1: Gray 7 — Sam Mulroy, Killian O’Brien (Leadership Fellow – Kelsey Freeman)
  • Case 2: Hoya 10 — Conner McMahon, Joe Parel (Leadership Fellow – Sophia Kerby)
  • Case 3: Saxa 6 — Sebastian Schrell, Yasmina Hussein (Leadership Fellow – Collin Dickson) 

Cohort Team Winners

  • Hoya 10: Saawan Bangur, Russ Bar, Conner McMahon, Joe Parel, Michael Symington (Leadership Fellow – Sophia Kerby)
  • Saxa 6: Yazan AlGhabra, Kyle Angelos, Maria Ayers, Aakarsh Chaturvedi, Yasmina Hussein, Sebastian Schrell (Leadership Fellow – Collin Dickson)
  • Blue 7: Ashwin Dakshinamurthi, Steve Fainer, Saloni Juneja, Megan Morrissey, Nick Quaglia, Shou Yang (Leadership Fellow – Jennifer Traul)
  • Gray 5: Daniel Capriles, Elizabeth Fairchild, Rachel Grich, Lawrence Martin, Neil Singh (Leadership Fellow – David Merchant)

Overall Squad Winner

Gray 5: Daniel Capriles, Elizabeth Fairchild, Rachel Grich, Lawrence Martin, Neil Singh (Leadership Fellow – David Merchant)

Overall Cohort Winner