UVic MBAs Win First Place in International Competition

How did four University of Victoria students end up rubbing shoulders with world and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland?

By being one of three finalists in the Corporate Knights’ Business for a Better World case study competition. The team took first place and the $6,000 prize.
The team of Jesal Shah, Andrew Spence, Susan Laidlaw and Karin Feldkamp — Gill Graduate School MBA students at the University of Victoria — advanced through two preliminary rounds to get to Davos.
“We all have different strengths, which made it a well-rounded team,” Shah says.
The teams were asked to create a sustainability-driven business plan for Novartis, a global healthcare company, and to identify a wide range of social, environmental and governance metrics to boost the company’s standing on the Corporate Knights Global 100
ranking so the company could surpass its industry peers on sustainability performance. Of the 26 teams that registered for the competition, five were selected to compete in round two for the chance to present their business plans in Davos.
“In the weeks leading up to our presentation at Davos, we knew we had to hone and make the presentation perfect, but we also knew there was a question and answer session and we didn’t know what kind of questions we would be getting,” Laidlaw says. “We had a mock session where we delivered our presentation, not only to the faculty but also pharmaceutical industry representatives. Then we did a mock Q&A session and they were generous to give us feedback on our answers.”
These representatives were local pharmaceutical veterans Noel Hall, co-founder and president of Aspreva Pharmaceuticals and Martin Thornton, director and head of human resources at Vifor Pharma North America.
“The very first question they asked was the first question the Novartis executive asked us, so it was really good to have that preparation,” Shah says.
The team describes the experience at Davos as surreal and one they will not soon forget.
“We met someone from the Canadian delegation who told us that [Davos] is an elite club of business people,” Shah says. “Just to get in is $100,000 — that’s the conference fee. These are where big business deals come in. Being UVic MBA students, it gave us quite a new perspective to be there. To be with the kinds of people who run the business world and governments… Sometimes I had to pinch myself.”