Manderson MBA Launch 2022 Welcomes, Tests Incoming Cohort

MBA Launch Case Team

To incoming MBA students at The University of Alabama’s Manderson Graduate School of Business, the start of the school year isn’t so much a gentle introduction to the b-school experience as it is something of a week-long boot camp. A key component of the week, called MBA Launch, is a case competition that has student teams assessing an assigned company’s business — and preparing a strategic recommendation.

Culverhouse’s Manderson Graduate School of Business prepares candidates for the case competition by hosting various workshops and team-building exercises throughout the week leading up to the competition. This orientation tests students’ ability to work within teams, grows their capabilities to think strategically, and develops problem-solving skills that they will eventually use as professionals.

MBA candidates learn of their assigned company before being assigned a team. Then during Launch week, students work with their teammates on a plan that addresses opportunities and challenges with their respective company.

For the start of fall 2022, 187 Manderson MBA candidates — 46 in the traditional program and 141 in STEM/CREATE Path to the MBA — participated in Launch.

On the Friday of Launch week, representatives from 66 corporate partners — who traveled over 11,000 miles in total from all corners of the country — participated in the preliminary rounds of the competition.

Manderson honored five corporate partners as finals judges: Kenneth Kelly, president and CEO of First Independence Bank; Mike Ross, president and CEO of CBS Banc-Corp and CB&S Bank and a member of the Culverhouse Board of Visitors; Andrew Osucha, vice president ultrasound of GE Healthcare; Dean Kay Palan, dean of Culverhouse College of Business; Sam Eskildsen, CEO of MainStreet Family Urgent Care; Sarah Rumfelt, head of marketing at Soda Health.

The top five teams of the competition were Five Below/Team 12, Lifeway Foods/Team 13), Activision Blizzard/Team 11, Lifeway Foods/Team 23, and Five Below/Team 15, in that order.

Team 12 — which included John Trimmer, James Kelley, Halee Hudson, Margaret Huckaby, and Michael Duggar — ultimately came out on top, presenting a revolutionary concept to leverage social media influencer marketing to grow Five Below’s customer base.

Additionally, individual awards were distributed for the preliminary and final rounds. The winners are:


  • Best Q&A – Jacob Odom
  • Best Presenter – Abby Markworth


  • Best Q&A – Sarah Liang
  • Best Presenter – Halee Hudson

The final round of competition featured a special guest as time-keeper and facilitator, Katie Grayson, a JD/MBA graduate of UA.

About this honor, Grayson said, “I’ve participated in several MBA Launches: first as a competitor, then a team coach, then a corporate partner, then as a communications consultant, and finally as faculty at The University of Alabama. I have been fortunate to meet dozens of fellow UA MBAs, both old and new, and forge friendships that will last forever. Because of the MBA Launch Competition, I made a connection with a corporate attorney at a Fortune 500 company, who helped me secure a great dual role in legal compliance and business strategy with that company once I was done with my JD/MBA.”

“The MBA Launch Competition is very special. It builds cohesion among the first-year MBA teams and gets incoming students ready to solve any business problems they encounter in their classes and in their internships. It is a singular experience, and one that MBA alumni end up reminiscing over years later.”

Manderson is fortunate that many of its corporate partners are alums of The University of Alabama and continue to serve its students in incredible ways. This year, alums composed almost 80 percent of the corporate partners.

Alongside the competition, Manderson hosts networking events for students and corporate partners to connect. This year, the format allowed corporate partners and students to connect across three different sessions.

Manderson’s high-ranking MBA program allows candidates to select a focused area of study across seven critical business functions; Business Analytics, Finance, Strategic Management, Marketing, Supply Chain, and more. More at


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