May 19, 2004

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Contact: Toni Dixon, School of Business, (785) 864-4449.

KU 1st-year MBA students stand out among 2nd-year competitors in contest

LAWRENCE -- A team of four first-year master's degree students in business administration at the University of Kansas set a precedent at the University of Oklahoma Price College Invitational MBA Case Competition in Norman, Okla., this spring.

The KU team was ranked in the top three in the MBA case competition, according to Dee Steinle, associate director of KU's MBA program.

KU's School of Business rewarded its team members with $700 scholarships for outstanding work in a competition designed primarily for second-year MBA students.

"We have some very generous donors to the School of Business who allow us to use their particular endowed funds in a way that we see fit to our students, and we're very thankful for that," Steinle said.

The team members and scholarship recipients were: Gene Kevin Liu of Lawrence; Barbara Elaine Ballard of Lecompton; Joseph Michael Bush of Smith Center; and Jason Rath of Newton.

The competition required students to solve a real-world business problem and then present their solution to five judges, who served as a mock board of directors.

"I guess it was a really tough call, and our team was given a lot of commendations for their creativity and their presentation skills," Steinle said. "But in the end, Oklahoma State did edge them out."

The KU team plans to compete again next year.

This year's competition case involved Avon cosmetics. Basically, the company wanted to start selling its products on the Internet but also to retain 500,000 door-to-door sales representatives. The competing students were asked: How should Avon move to this new sales format without losing its sales representatives?

The students had a full day to use their knowledge, problem-solving skills and creativity to craft a solution and a presentation.

The KU team's solution allowed customers to access the company's Web site, which presented Avon's products but required customers to go through their representative's Web site to place an order, permitting online selling yet retaining the representatives.

William Lewis, distinguished lecturer at the KU business school, said, "I think it was outstanding what they did. One judge mentioned the creativity that KU had compared to the other schools. They told me that this was so close it was almost a coin toss between KU and Oklahoma State."

The KU scholarships came as a welcome award for the students.

"The $700 scholarship was definitely a surprise," Bush said. "I didn't expect that we were going to get anything. I was just kind of flabbergasted."

The winning KU students are all pursuing master of business administration degrees. Their hometown information is as follows:

From Lawrence and Gardner
Gene Kevin Liu is married to Sofia Liu. He earned a bachelor's degree at KU in 1996 and attended Wichita State University and Johnson County Community College. He is a graduate of Gardner Edgerton High School.

From Lecompton
Barbara Elaine Ballard is married to John Ledford. They have a daughter, Katrina. Ballard received a bachelor's degree of the University of California-Berkeley.

From Newton
Jason Rath is the son of Pat and Phil Rath. His bachelor's degree is from Southern Methodist University.

From Gardner and Lawrence
Gene Kevin Liu. See Douglas County.

From Smith Center
Joseph Michael Bush, is the son of Jim and Judy Bush; he is married to Kara Bush and received a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Kansas State University.


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