Each quarter, more than a hundred graduating seniors at the Foster School of Business tackle real-world problems and present strategies for local Pacific Northwest companies as part of Foster’s Strategy Development Case Competition.
This fast-paced competition is the finale of Strategic Business Management (MGMT 430), a required capstone course for all Foster undergraduate students. Foster partners with a local business to present the students with a real challenge faced by the company – and the students must use all of the skills and knowledge they’ve gained throughout the course and their entire undergraduate career to solve it.
This quarter, Foster partnered with Vulcan, Paul Allen’s company and leader of the transformation of South Lake Union, on the case: “Vulcan Real Estate: Betting on the Bellevue Market.” Students were asked to recommend retail tenants for the ground-level of two of Vulcan’s large, upcoming projects in downtown Bellevue: a single, 42-story tower, and “Bellevue Plaza,” a 3-tower complex and community hub. They were also required to present a positioning plan and financial feasibility analysis, considering the economic viability, neighborhood “fit,” and community concerns such as sustainability, social equity, and public access.
Over the course of a month, students collaborated in teams to analyze the case, research solutions, craft their presentation, and pitch their recommendations. Within two weeks of the competition, students had the chance to dig deeper at a Question and Answer Session with Vulcan representatives and receive valuable coaching from Accenture consultants.
The morning of the competition kicked off with the Preliminary Rounds, in which each team has 12 minutes to present, followed by 8 minutes of Q&A from a panel of judges – one representative from Vulcan and a mix of business professionals and Foster alumni. Students received feedback from the judges immediately after their presentations, and the judges scored the teams based on the quality of their research, analysis, solution, and alternatives, as well as their presentation skills and responses to questions.
After the prelims, the students and judges were able to connect in a more relaxed setting at a Networking Lunch. At the end of the meal, the final five teams were announced, and they raced to make any last changes to their presentations. The highly competitive Final Rounds took place in front of a larger audience and a panel of judges all from Vulcan’s upper management.
In the end, it was Team D4 – Maria Bessonova, Whitney Buell, Jared Ostendorp, and Olivia Ruble – who emerged victorious. They proposed an “Affordably Innovative” 108th Tower with an inclusive, contemporary, and diverse retail space that included Nike, Culinary Dropout, Wok to Walk, and Rachel’s Ginger Beer. They focused on giving Bellevue Plaza a “Campus Feel” that is convenient, meaningful, and local with a Metropolitan Market, Mr. West Cofee + Bar, Wagly Pet Campus, and local retailers.
While the winning team took home prizes with custom engravings proclaiming them the competition champions, the beauty of the event was the win-win for both sides of the partnership. Students gained real-world experience and invaluable advice from professionals before graduation, and the judges and company partners were provided with fresh insights, new ideas, and recommendations from Seattle’s up-and-coming talent.