MBA Students Earn Highest Marks in National Education Competition

A team of Berkeley MBA students exuding Confidence Without Attitude, one of the Haas School's Defining Principles, won the inaugural EdTech Case Competition at MIT’s Sloan School of Business Nov. 12.

Full-time MBA students Gordon Chan and Kawai Lai, both MBA 12, and Mike Ciccarone and Flora Kuo, both MBA 13, took home $3,500 and praise from judges and other teams.

“We actually had other competitors tell us that our team came across as confident, yet approachable,” says Kuo. Participating teams included Harvard, Stanford, and Duke, in a challenge on using technology to increase parental involvement in education.

Students were asked to present recommendations to education publisher and sponsor Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on a marketing and corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy for Connect Success, a new online product that aims to improve parents' ability to help their children with schoolwork through a variety of support tools such as videos and step-by-step instructions to solve a problem.

"The aim was to reach as many parents as possible, especially those who may be low income and lack access to technology,” says Chan.

“We think that our holistic view of the market as well as structured recommendations on how to target each segment helped us win,” adds Lai. While some teams focused on only parents as customers and others considered only school districts, the Haas team looked at how Houghton Mifflin Harcourt could address each of those particular segments in different ways.

"Also, we used creative ways to give examples of some initiatives they can use. For instance, we recommended an awareness video for parents and included a mock-up of the video in our presentation.” (An illustration from the video, above, was drawn by Ciccarone.)

The team says their Haas experience helped to differentiate them. “Classes and frameworks aside, we brought with us the defining culture of Haas without even realizing it,” says Kuo. Not only did fellow competitors comment on their confidence without attitude, but also said it was clear the Haas team “really liked and respected each other.”

Courses that did play a role in the team's success included Leadership Communications, “which helped to put that extra polish on our presentation,” notes Ciccarone, and Problem Finding, Problem Solving “helped our team to iterate through our ideas quickly.” Also, “as four ex-consultants, we had the skills (and endurance) to put together a structured yet creative presentation in a very short period of time.”

Why did the students participate? Lai explains, "All of us have been or are planning to work in the education space and are interested in how technology can disrupt education as it is today."

The Berkeley-Haas first-place winners of the EdTech Case Competition: Kawai Lai, MBA 12; Mike Ciccarone, MBA 13; Gordon Chan, MBA 12; and Flora Kuo, MBA 13.