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Eller College Home > News, Events, and Multimedia > Press Releases > 10 Most Innovative MBA Teams

Press Release

Eller Press Contact

Liz Warren-Pederson
Eller College of Management

The University of Arizona’s Eller MBA student team named one of 10 Most Innovative MBA Teams in the World

251 teams from 81 top MBA programs in 17 countries narrowed to Top 10 teams in Thunderbird Innovation Challenge.

TUCSON, Ariz. – November 16, 2004 – On November 18-20, 2004, a team of five MBA students from The University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management will compete as one of ten finalists from around the world in The Global Innovation Challenge—the world’s largest MBA competition of its kind put on by Thunderbird, The Garvin School of International Management, and Idea Crossing.

The winning team is awarded a monetary prize of $20,000 and the opportunity to compete for employment and internship opportunities at sponsor companies. Second place wins $3,000 and third place wins $2,000.

The Eller MBA team emerged as one of ten finalists from the first round of the Challenge, which took place online in October, seamlessly linking 251 teams from 81 business programs in 17 countries. The competition gives top students an opportunity to respond to a growing trend among corporations to look for ideas outside their corporate walls. Companies including Hilton, Valvoline, Sprint, Sunbeam, and Chiquita have joined with the competition to challenge students to find innovative ways to address issues they are facing.

From the 251 new business solutions presented to the five participating companies, ten ideas rose to the top. These ten teams—including the Eller MBA team from The University of Arizona—now proceed to the final round to compete head-to-head on the Thunderbird campus in Glendale, Arizona. In first round competition, the Eller team was assigned to develop a new concept for Valvoline. Of the forty-five teams in the Valvoline category, the judges ranked the team from Eller number one.

In addition to The University of Arizona team, finalists include teams from the business schools at Michigan State University, Brigham Young University, Instituto de Empresa (Spain), Emory University, Stanford University, Vanderbilt University, Case Western University, Indiana University, and IESA (Spain).

The University of Arizona (Eller College of Management) entered five teams, Arizona State University (W.P. Carey School of Business) entered one team, and Thunderbird (The Garvin School of International Management) entered 24 teams. The Eller team is the only team from schools in Arizona to proceed to the group of Top 10 finalists.

The Eller team consists of team leader Panayiotis Panayides, Lloyd K. von Scheliha, Toff Williams, Mary Di, and Rachel Xie. Panayiotis (or Panos for short), who is from Nicosia in Cyprus (Greece), selected his teammates based on the experience each member brings to the table. He says, “An effective team brings together a variety of perspectives. Our team members have backgrounds in marketing, entrepreneurship, finance, and MIS, and bring unique perspectives from experience in the U.S., China, and Greece. One of us is a great researcher and number cruncher, another is great at presenting, one is a strategic thinker, another is a true marketer, and another a great idea generator, and we have both men and women on our team. Business today is global and new ideas are valuable. We believe our varied backgrounds give us a competitive advantage to present a true out-of-the-box business concept.”

E. LaBrent Chrite, associate dean and MBA director, is thrilled that the Eller team is gaining this valuable experience and showcasing its global perspectives to the MBA community. He commented, “In today’s complex and dynamic business environment, traditional notions of business—product design, brand identity, distribution channels, cost structures, to name a few—have become secondary to entrepreneurial energy and creativity. The Eller MBA program prepares business professionals to operate and succeed at the nexus of technology, management, and innovation. This competition showcases our program’s strengths in merging traditional business concepts with transformational thinking. We are proud of our team’s success, knowing that these students are already changing the face of business for tomorrow’s competitive landscape.”

While the final round of judging will take place by a ten-person panel made of CEOs, innovation experts, and directors of innovation at non-sponsor companies, the online judging panel consisted of nearly 140 judges from more than 15 countries. Team concept plans will be judged in six categories: Concept, Value Proposition, Commercial Potential, Competitive Advantage, Feasibility, and Presentation.

Team leader Panos added, “You don’t have to be at an elite MBA program to impact the business world. We want to set an example for Eller MBAs in years to come to compete, add value, and accomplish. We are focused on generating simple, high-impact ideas and the Eller College has helped us with the skills to do just that.”

The Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona is internationally recognized for pioneering research, innovative curriculum, distinguished faculty, excellence in management information systems, entrepreneurship, and social responsibility. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Eller undergraduate program No. 11 among public business schools and two of its programs are among the top 20 — Entrepreneurship and MIS. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Eller MBA Full-Time program No. 48 in the U.S. In addition to a Full-Time MBA program, the Eller College offers the No. 25-ranked Evening MBA program, the Eller Executive MBA and the Online MBA. The Eller College of Management supports more than 5,800 undergraduate and 800 graduate students on the UA campus in beautiful Tucson, Arizona, and on its satellite campus in downtown Phoenix.

Press Contact:
Liz Warren-Pederson, Eller College of Management

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