College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Early Excellence Among James Scholars


From left, Kaushik Andra, McKennon Biers, Erin McGrew, Mary Jo Nie, Sue Daughtery, Dave Brehm, Emily Peterson and Melissa Chang stand together in BIF.

It’s no accident that Rockwell Collins is a $4.5 Billion company. Since the 1930’s when Arthur Collins founded the company, his legacy of hiring great talent has virtually ensured growth and prosperity.

Perhaps that’s why the company has taken an interest in the James Scholars in the College of Business.

On January 24th Rockwell Collins challenged the freshman and sophomore class of James Scholars to a case competition with deep implications for the company. They invited these young professionals to work in groups of four for two weeks to address the difficulty of growing their strong American identity into a truly global brand. They sweetened the deal with three cash prizes, though it was obvious the true victors would carry bragging rights few freshmen ever achieve.

By February 5th, the teams were ready. They each had 12 minutes to present their solutions. Starting in the morning at 8:30, the teams took their turns standing before Rockwell Collins executives Dave Brehm  (Vice President and Controller, International and Service Solutions), Sue Daughtery (Manager, Finance People Development and Projects),  Erin McGrew ( Manager, Business Area Finance),  and Mary Jo Nie (Accountant).

By mid-day “Synergy Consulting” team members Kaushik Andra, McKennon Biers, Emily Peterson, and Melissa Chang emerged victorious and proudly claimed the coveted winners’ title and $3200. "BEAM" team members Michael Eichner, Braden Anderson, Dan Ballantine and Rachel Miller, and "Business Council Fall New Members" Alex Joines, Santhosh Nandhan, Brad Mora, and Sheena Das received 2nd and 3rd place, respectively, along with smaller cash prizes.

John Hedeman, assistant dean, honors, pointed out that all the participants won an important victory. “This great group of honors students leave with experience that will make them even better the next time they are faced with a case that challenges their critical thinking skills. By the time they emerge from the College they will have great contacts and an enviable ability to present as true professionals.”

Impressed with the presentations, Brehm and his associates invited the two top teams to visit Rockwell Collins headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa this summer to present again to the Senior Leadership Committee. Once there, chairman, president, and CEO Clayton M. Jones will witness for himself what even freshmen and sophomore James Scholars are capable of when they set their minds to it.


UIUC College of Business