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Business Students Go Head-to-Head in Pursuit of Invaluable Industry Experience

Students at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business are learning first-hand how to improve the bottom line of company Web sites by acting as actual consultants—something that translates directly into a valuable tool to land jobs upon completion of their degrees.

MBA students Tyler Riggs and J.J. Oliver recently claimed top honors in the 10th Adobe Web Analytics Competition, marking another milestone in the school’s mission to provide the best hands-on business education in the nation. The team analyzed the online performance of DepartmentofGoods.com, a closeout/outlet site owned by Backcountry.com, a Utah-based Web retailer of outdoor recreational gear, clothing and accessories. Riggs and Oliver focused on, among other things, how best to reduce the number of customers who make “shopping cart” product selections, but then abandon the transactions before completing purchases.

University of Utah students claimed another first place finish in the Intermountain University Think Tank contest, sponsored by Intermountain Healthcare (IHC). The Utah student team of Andre Kemeny, MBA/Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) and Suzanne Sigmund, MPH/MHA each earned $4,000 in cash prizes and $5,000 more for the University’s general scholarship fund.

Kemeny and Sigmund contended with other teams from each of seven Utah universities with the objective to “generate creative new perspectives on healthcare delivery that expand the way IHC operates and become the foundation for programs that improve how they achieve their mission.” The student teams were each assigned a mentor from IHC to work with and gave final presentations in front of IHC executives.

For the Adobe Web Analytics Competition, the team of Utah MBA students, Tyler Riggs and J.J. Oliver, competed and won first place, defeating teams from other top universities. With a $15,000 first-place prize on the line, student teams assumed the role of digital marketing consultants. Using Adobe web analytic tools, the student teams were asked to analyze an actual retail website and make recommendations for improving its performance.

Riggs, a second-year MBA student, called participation in the contest “one of the greatest opportunities that I've ever had, not only during my time in the David Eccles School of Business MBA program but throughout my entire career — academically and professionally.”

“The opportunity to work with a major company like Adobe, analyzing a real Web site from another major company like Backcountry.com, and using real data to make recommendations that could actually be used by the client company, was phenomenal,” Riggs says. “The things we do in school and in this competition are things that we will use on the job in the future as digital marketers, and to be able to gain experience doing it in a high-profile setting has been invaluable.”

Oliver, also in his second year of the MBA program, credited the school’s “great professors providing the knowledge base to perform quantitative analysis and ask the critical questions which led to our success.”

Linda Wells, director of the MBA program and the Sorenson Center for Innovation and Discovery, hailed the curriculum developed at the David Eccles School of Business and the competition for providing students with real-world experience and learning opportunities.

“It’s a thrill to see the results of the hard work of our students. They’ve had both curricular and co-curricular programming to help prepare them for competitions. They have invested a tremendous amount of their own time to polish their research and presentations,” says Wells. “We are proud of them individually and we’re grateful that they have so positively represented the school and the full-time MBA Program.”

Business competitions such as those offered by Adobe and IHC are just a few of the opportunities David Eccles School of Business students are engaged in to develop corporate acumen. The school offers the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, a business-plan writing contest; Opportunity Quest, a qualifying competition for the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge; techTITANS, a multi-discipline business idea contest; and the Utah Real Estate Challenge, a real estate development plan competition.

About the David Eccles School of Business

Founded in 1917 in Salt Lake City, the David Eccles School of Business has programs in entrepreneurship, technology innovation and venture capital management. Emphasizing interdisciplinary education and experiential learning, it launched the country’s largest student-run venture capital fund with $18.3 million (the largest in the U.S.), and is home to the Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center and the Sorenson Center for Discovery and Innovation. Approximately 3,500 students are enrolled in its undergraduate, graduate and executive degree programs as well as joint MBA programs in architecture, law and health administration. For more information, visit www.business.utah.edu.

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