North­eastern Uni­ver­sity busi­ness stu­dents won first place in a highly com­pet­i­tive case com­pe­ti­tion ear­lier this month at the Wharton School of the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­vania, besting 11 other under­grad­uate teams from insti­tu­tions in the U.S. and Canada.

The stu­dents — Bree Jones, class of 2013, and Jed Baker, Jake Wain­wright and Joe Haniak, all class of 2014 — are mem­bers of North­eastern University’s Hunt­ington Man­age­ment Con­sulting, an under­grad­uate club focused on man­age­ment con­sulting and strategy. The club pro­vides stu­dents with real-​​world expe­ri­ence through inter­col­le­giate com­pe­ti­tions and by taking on strategic con­sulting cases for local firms and non­profit orga­ni­za­tions. The stu­dents in the club also receive sup­port from a strong net­work of alumni, who judge their pre­sen­ta­tions and pro­vide crit­ical feed­back throughout the aca­d­emic year.

Although we won, we know we have to keep improving and working even harder,” Jones said, noting the club’s relent­less prac­tice schedule. “We can build on this and take it to the next level.”

For the Oct. 12 case com­pe­ti­tion, the under­grad­uate teams were tasked with the com­plex chal­lenge of restruc­turing a pri­vate wealth man­age­ment com­pany merger and pre­senting their solu­tion to a panel of judges from the con­sulting industry. The North­eastern team’s pre­sen­ta­tion incor­po­rated not only an overall strategic restruc­turing plan, but also a blue­print for tran­si­tioning some employees to new assign­ments and respon­si­bil­i­ties that would make the com­pany stronger and more efficient.

In the final round, North­eastern pre­vailed over the Uni­ver­sity of Toronto, the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­vania and New York Uni­ver­sity. Other uni­ver­si­ties with com­peting under­grad­uate teams included Yale Uni­ver­sity, the Uni­ver­sity of North Car­olina, Duke Uni­ver­sity, McGill Uni­ver­sity and Rut­gers University.

Boiling down hours and hours of analysis and research into a 15-​​minute pre­sen­ta­tion was chal­lenging. But club advisor Ray­mond Kin­nunen, asso­ciate pro­fessor of inter­na­tional busi­ness and strategy in the D’Amore-McKim School of Busi­ness, said that expe­ri­ence reaps tremen­dous rewards.

This is what hap­pens in the real world. A CEO may call you at 8 a.m. and ask you for analysis, rec­om­men­da­tion and pre­sen­ta­tion in two hours,” said Kin­nunen, whom the stu­dents call “Coach K.” “That’s the type of expe­ri­ence our stu­dents are getting.”

He added, “There are so many impor­tant skills our stu­dents are get­ting out of this, but the most impor­tant is con­fi­dence — the con­fi­dence to do that analysis, make those pre­sen­ta­tions and defend your rec­om­men­da­tions to the case consultants.”

Wain­wright said team mem­bers viewed the com­pe­ti­tion as an oppor­tu­nity to call upon knowl­edge gained in the class­room, tackle a large-​​scale busi­ness problem and pro­pose a com­pre­hen­sive solution.

The com­pe­ti­tion made us stop and think, ‘Would a busi­ness actu­ally do this?’ Wain­wright said. “We needed to pro­vide rec­om­men­da­tions to a com­plex real-​​world problem and present in a short time period. That type of thinking will def­i­nitely help us in our careers.”

With the first live busi­ness case com­pe­ti­tion under their belts, NUHMC mem­bers now have their sights set the next one, which will be take place at North­eastern on Nov. 1–3. The com­pe­ti­tion will be co-​​sponsored by the Con­sor­tium of Under­grad­uate Inter­na­tional Busi­ness Edu­ca­tion, known as CUIBE.

Kin­nunen has been guiding stu­dents in busi­ness com­pe­ti­tions for more than a decade, helping them win 11 of the last 13 B-​​School Beanpot Case Analysis Com­pe­ti­tions held annu­ally until 2009 for under­grad­u­ates at Boston-​​area busi­ness schools. Since then, the team has posted strong per­for­mances in sim­ilar com­pe­ti­tions across the country and abroad, including first-​​place fin­ishes in the 2009 Stock­holm School of Eco­nomics Inter­na­tional Case Com­pe­ti­tion, at The Mar­keting Summit held at Wake Forest Uni­ver­sity in 2011 and at the APICS case com­pe­ti­tion in 2010, 2011 and 2012.