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Portrait Gallery: Derrick D'Souza and Nolan Gaffney

Derrick D'SouzaProfessor Derrick D’Souza, right, and Assistant Professor Nolan Gaffney, below, in the College of Business, share their thoughts on a longtime case competition designed to put students’ classroom to the test. The Integrated Business Case Competition has a new sponsor this year – Fidelity Investments. The pair, who are co-coordinators of the capstone course for this competition, share their thoughts about the past, present and future of the contest – and a bit about themselves.

InHouse: What is your title and role in the UNT College of Business?

D’Souza: I am a professor in the Department of Management, where I teach undergraduate, masters, and doctoral level courses in strategic management. I joined the university in 1989.

Nolan GaffneyGaffney: I am an assistant professor in the Department of Management. I have taught both strategic management and international management courses at UNT at both the undergraduate and graduate level (master of business administration program). I also work closely with the Department of Management doctoral students helping them develop their research programs and find rewarding research and teaching careers after completing their doctorates.

I joined UNT in the fall of 2012. My research is on the institutional, cultural, and competitive drivers of firm outward foreign direct investment decisions. My work has appeared in several leading International Business focused academic journals including Journal of World Business and Management International Review. I also hold a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Cincinnati and a Bachelor of Business Administration in logistics and transportation from the University of Tennessee.

InHouse: At its core, what is the case competition?

Gaffney: It is about putting theory into practice. In a capstone course, it we must challenge students to integrate the skills and knowledge acquired in the foundational courses within the College of Business in a team-based experiential exercise. Working with a representative of a real company in a “live” case format challenges student teams to adopt an analytical mindset. As team members, they must combine their individual skill sets into a comprehensive and integrative solution for the client that is based in critical thought and problem solving. What I think most students find challenging about the course is that there may not be one right answer to a business situation, but rather answers that are justified by logic, rationale and analysis.

InHouse: When did you form the case competition and what inspired it?

D’Souza: In 1992, after coaching the four-member undergraduate student team to victory in the first EDS-sponsored business case competition involving all the top schools in the Southwest, I realized that incorporating something similar into the pedagogy of our capstone course would allow business students to experience C-suite decision-making in real time. 

InHouse: When you created this competition, what was your hope for it? Do you feel you achieved that?

D’Souza: Grant Miles and I rolled out the case competition in 1995.  It was our hope that the competition would provide a real-world platform that supports C-suite type integrative thinking and strategic decision making. 

It did not take us long to achieve our goals, and we have stayed true to the basic model that was conceived in 1995. That being said, we are constantly innovating, and improving things for our students.  In 2011 the course was recognized for its contribution to student learning, when it was bestowed the Bobby Bizzell Innovation Achievement Award, by Bloomberg BusinessWeek and AACSB - Southwest Dean's Council.

InHouse: For the first time in years, the longtime case competition will have a new sponsor: Fidelity Investments. How do you think it will evolve with the new sponsor?

Gaffney: I believe Fidelity’s involvement provides Derrick and me an opportunity to revisit every aspect of our course design and approach to ensure that we are offering the best content, process and experience that we can to the students. It is not only important that the students have a successful capstone experience to finish their undergraduate degree but that they gain an important skill set for their future careers – critical thinking and problem solving. Our initial experience with Fidelity this semester has been great. They have been extremely motivated to help us make this a valuable experience for the students.

—Monique Bird, news promotions

Posted on: Thu 10 December 2015

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