RIC Business Students Achieve 98th Percentile in International Competition

Management students who competed in 2024 Capstone Competition

“We were in it to win it,” says team members.

A team of management majors – Maya Connolly, Carolina Menendez and Jeffrey Taveras (pictured from left to right in photo above) – recently vied with almost 7,000 other international teams in the Spring 2024 Capstone Simulation Competition. By the seventh round, the team ranked in the 98th percentile.

Prof. Jiyun Wu
Associate Professor Jiyun Wu

“This is the first time since COVID that our students were able to achieve this result,” says Associate Professor of Management Jiyun Wu, who mentored the students. 

“This makes me feel like we’re back and that our students are again demonstrating extraordinary tenacity and abilities,” she says.

The rules of the competition is that each team owns their own company and competes with five other companies in the same industry. The goal is to outperform your competitors. 

The competition runs for eight weeks, with one round per week. The team with the best overall performance wins the round. Winning is determined by a company’s financial performance, how well they satisfied their customers, how internally efficient they are and how well they were able to learn and grow. 

Ultimately, the goal is for students to take all the strategic management skills they’ve gained and apply it in a simulated business environment.

Connolly, Menendez and Taveras admit that they are highly competitive people. From the start, each made known to their teammates that they were in it to win it. 

During the first three rounds, their company performed well. But by the fourth round, they made a decision that almost put them out of business.

“We raised our prices,” says Menendez. “By the morning, we found that we had gone from 10 percent positive to a negative 51 percent.”

Desperate, the team emailed Wu, asking if she could reset (restart) the round and let them do the round again with corrected decisions.

“I said, ‘No. I think you can come back from this,’” Wu says. “I could have bailed them out, but I said ‘no’ to a reset because I knew they had a strong foundation – they were dedicated, driven, they had good communication and they worked well as a team. I knew they could recover. They made a major mistake, but they could correct the mistake and get back on the path.”

“So, we went back to the books, reading all that Dr. Wu suggested,” says Menendez. “And then we implemented.”

By the fifth round they were making a comeback. By round six they saw a great improvement. By round seven they performed their best, scoring in the 98th percentile. And in round eight, they also performed well.

“I think we learned more from that one mistake in round four than we learned from the entire simulation,” says Menendez.

“For one, I learned how volatile business can be,” says Taveras. “Just one decision can cause a major upset.”

“And there is no one correct strategy,” says Connolly. “You have to change your strategy as you go along. We thought that raising our prices would get us more sales. It actually caused us to lose money.”

“Winning in industry is all relative,” says Wu. “If you’re doing better than other companies, you’re winning. It’s determined by your cumulative profits, stock price and your return on equity – the money you make for your investors. For me, in this class, if they reach the 90th percentile, they’re really outstanding.”

Looking back, the team credits their success to teamwork and to their professor.

“What I value most is that Dr. Wu gave us the tools, but she never gave us the answer,” says Menendez. “If someone tells you, ‘Do it this way,’ you don’t learn. You’re just cutting and pasting. But Dr. Wu really challenged us to think critically and analytically and then to go for it.”

Carolina Menendez, age 34, is a returning adult student. Menendez took a 10-year break from RIC in 2010 for family reasons and is graduating this May. She is lead for a team in the Prior Authorization unit of the Lifespan Cancer Institute at Rhode Island Hospital.

Maya Connolly, age 25, transferred to RIC from CCRI and is also a graduating senior. She works as a customer service manager for Adams Hometown Market.

Jeffrey Taveras, age 24, is a graduating senior who transferred to RIC from URI. He has applied to World Wrestling Entertainment, headquartered in Stamford, CT, with the hopes of gaining an internship and building a business career from there.