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Morning Sun photo: From left to right: Morning Sun owner James K. Hookano with student team members Wendy Luciani, Jerry Ramos, Audra Greenberg, Katrina Domela, Natalie Gong, Albert Wang and Peng S. Chan, professor of management.

Double National Honors

Business Students Take Two Thirds in National Contest

May 5, 2009

By Pamela McLaren

One team taking third place in a national contest would be exceptional but Cal State Fullerton business administration students have doubled the excitement and recognition by taking third place in both the undergraduate and graduate Field Case of the Year Competition sponsored by the Small Business Institute.

They are the latest in a long list of national award-winning case competitors from Mihaylo College of Business and Economics.

Working through the university’s Small Business Institute, companies request a student team to work with them, said John B. Jackson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, which houses the institute. When companies are qualified for assistance, they are pitched to the student teams, who then select which companies they wish to serve.

“During their initial meetings with the client, the students gather as much information as possible about the company and their needs. The meeting typically lasts about two hours,” explained Jackson, who was the faculty adviser for this year's winning undergraduate team. “Students then develop a proposal on the scope of the work as they see it — and hope that it marries with the client’s expectations. The students have 10 to 12 weeks to complete the case study.”

Graduate Student Winners

The six-member graduate team, under the direction of Peng S. Chan, professor of management, worked with Morning Sun Shirt Company of Garden Grove. Members of the team are Chien-Ying Gon of San Gabriel, Jerry Ramos of Norwalk, Albert Wang of Irvine, Wendy Luciani of Whittier, Audra Greenberg of Tustin and Katrina Domela of Santa Clara.

“The students conducted a full analysis of the industry, competitors and the operations of the company, including financial, accounting, human resources and technology,” said Chan. “The students even came up with a vision statement, mission for the company and possible slogans.

“Their level of detail, I think is what caught the eyes of the judges,” Chan continued. “The team as a whole was very analytical, very smart with lots of work experience to call upon. Their work was outstanding - I wasn't surprised one bit that they won.”

“The students were great to work with, very thorough with their questions and interviews,” said James K. Hookano, president of Morning Sun Shirt Company. “As a result of their efforts, our policies were upgraded and procedures improved. Morning Sun is a healthier company today and we're better prepared for the challenges of tomorrow's business environment.”

“By far and away, this was the best team I had worked with during my graduate studies,” said team member Audra Greenberg, who graduated with her M.B.A. in management following the spring 2008 class. “We had great synergy, everyone worked tirelessly toward our goal and the level of professionalism was apparent from day one. The class time we spent with Dr. Chan helped us to focus on the elements of the project that would provide the client with the best strategic recommendations.

“As far as career opportunities, the project provided such a valuable experience not only in team work and presentation skills, but also in completing a large-scale project based on a client’s needs,” Greenberg noted. “Having participated in two consulting projects while I was at CSUF has given me confidence and poise that carries over into my professional career. I am glad to have had these experiences.”

Fellow 2008 graduate and teammate Wendy Luciani agreed. "The capstone course was a culmination of all our learning throughout the M.B.A. program. It allowed me the to opportunity to apply technical knowledge while providing the context to perform in a collaborative environment. The group dynamics allowed us to capitalize on the strengths of each member, to produce a successful product for our client. I continue to find tangible applications for the materials requirements planning and project management skills I obtained. It was a positive experience that I will always cherish.”

Winning Undergraduate Team

PM group of Lake Forest worked with the undergraduate team of Jennifer Angel of Laguna Hills, Robert Lescaille of Foothill Ranch, Maria Lizarrage of La Mirada, Chris Sullivan of Upland and Brandon Tarnow of Lake Forest. Assisting the team along with Jackson was volunteer Sylvan Swartz.

“These were academically sound students,” said Jackson. “They conducted a customer survey and analysis, analyzed competitors, reviewing branding and made recommendations on the companies public relations and website. The client was very receptive.”

“This was a great team,” said Paul McKinney, president of the Orange County printing company. “We still employ some of the suggestions that they made, and last year was the best year ever for our company.

“I think it had an impact on us in many positive ways. We got back a great written proposal (and got great perspective from the generation coming after us),” McKinney added. “All of us in the company are 40-50 somethings ... it was really important to hear how those going into the workforce see the business world and how they think business should be done. It was eye opening. It was definitely a good experience for us, and I hope for the students as well.”

“I really enjoyed the class with Mr. Jackson,” said Maria Lizarraga, who graduated in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in business administration-entrepreneurship. “For many of us in the group it was our first consultation report and we had no idea what was in store for us. Mr. Jackson and our mentor, Sylvan Swartz, really helped us expand on our ideas for the consultation report.

“All our hard work doing surveys, researching, calling clients and competitors really helped us determine what areas the PM Group needed to work on and ultimately made our report such a success,” Lizarraga added. “I know I took a lot from the class and the project overall. By succeeding so well in that class consultation project, I was able to apply my knowledge to the other consultation reports I had to write.”

Cal State Fullerton teams have served more than a 1,000 area business and won national case competition championships eight times since 1991. The Small Business Institute is now accepting inquiries from business owners who wish to have their firms participate in the student consulting program. For more information, call 657-278-3464 or go to

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