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DBA Students Shine at Prestigious Research Conference

By Keith Morelli

Front row, from left: Charles Hilterbrand Jr., Danielle Clark, Carla Dorsey Back row, from left: Terry McGovern, Janis Gogan, Keith Campbell

TAMPA (October 26, 2017) -- Business scenarios including felony theft, a devastating fire, heart attacks and whether the owner of a family feed store should hand the business to his daughter were among the cases studied and written about by Muma College of Business students in a recent business research conference in Chicago.

And in the end, a Doctor of Business Administration student took the Newcomer Award in the Best Case Category at the North American Case Research Association conference. Terry McGovern's case study of the feed store succession situation won it for him this year.

His case study involved a father who wonders if he should sell his feed and seed business or pass it on to his daughter. It's a rough life; is it a good choice for her? The daughter, who is studying for her MBA, has a lot of ideas for improving the efficiency of the business. Both dad and daughter want to talk, but don't know how to initiate the conversation.

McGovern, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel with a 20-year military career that includes stints as a speech writer for the U.S. Air Force Strategic Command's Director of Global Operations, currently is a tenured professor teaching graduate courses at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.

He said his case, titled "Ready or Not," was a study on research addressing "fathers passing on family businesses to daughters."

"Going into the NACRA conference, I was not even thinking about competing for an award," he said. "I viewed the entire process as a learning opportunity and I felt several of my classmates' cases were superior to my own.

"I was genuinely shocked to receive the recognition," he said. "What really made it special was having Janis Gogan, our USF case professor, at the table with us. Her exceptional teaching and full commitment to our class, including providing feedback after the class, was incredible. The award is a reflection of her outstanding effort."

The cases drawn up by the students were for discussion only and provided information without a recommendation. The case was written to foster in-class and in-company debate about the multiple right ways to approach and execute decisions.

This was the second year in a row that a Muma College of Business DBA student took home a distinguished award from the annual conference, shining a light on the work done by the doctoral students in this young program.

Last year, Clinton Daniel's case, "Fintech, Inc.: Selecting a Cloud Services Provider," wound up being published in the Case Research Journal. He is also the first USF Muma DBA student to have his work published in the prestigious Harvard Business School case collection.

"We are very proud of the awards won by Terry McGovern of the DBA Class '19 and Clinton Daniel of the DBA Class '18 this year and last year, at the North American Case Research Association conference," said Matt Mullarkey, program director for the Doctor of Business Administration program at the Muma College of Business. "Our student participation continues to reflect well on USF, the Muma College of Business and the DBA program."

Five Muma College of Business DBA students, as well as visiting Professor Janis Gogan, traveled to Chicago last week to take part in NACRA's annual conference.

The participating students were enrolled in the spring first-publication course taught by Mullarkey and Grogan. All the students in the class were required to write up case studies as a publishable discussion case during the semester.

The five students submitted their cases for presentation and roundtable reviews at the conference.

"A differentiator in our Doctor of Business Administration degree program for working professionals is our focus out of the gate – in the first semester of the program – on the conduct of case research for publication," said Mullarkey. "The return on that investment is that our students, by their second semester, are frequently attending world-class, case-research conferences and submitting their cases to case-research journals."

Here is a list of other four Muma College of Business DBA students who participated and a synopsis of their case studies:

  • Keith Campbell: A forensics investigator discovers that a business owner's child has stolen a lot of cash from the business. Since this act is a felony, the investigator is required to tell not only the owner, but law enforcement authorities. What's the best way to handle this situation?
  • Danielle Clark: The workaholic owner of a popular restaurant must cope with the aftermath of a devastating fire and come to terms with a leadership succession issue. Having survived one heart attack and been warned by his doctor that his business was killing him, he must decide whether his son should take it over, or if he should sell it and if so, how to get a good price for it?
  • Carla Dorsey: A CEO who, after questioning his longtime sales director's request for a 40 percent staff increase based on a 30 percent increase in sales, hires a consultant to independently assess the sales-force staffing requirements. Now, with the consultant's report before him, the CEO needs to decide on three staffing options.
  • Chuck Hilterbrand Jr.: The president of a university located in an economically struggling town, accepted the gift of a Main Street building. Faculty and staff make proposals of worthwhile uses for the property and students also are given an opportunity to vote on the best choice. The president must consider whether costs and risks associated with this gift will be offset by a beneficial use for it.

While the conference highlighted the research done by these five Muma College of Business DBA students, only a portion of the research done by the cohorts was presented there. Other students frequently publish discussion cases in the Muma Case Review, some of which are assigned for student discussion at sponsoring organizations, various business classes here and at other universities.

The cohorts at the DBA are made up of seasoned professionals typically with a minimum of 15 to 20 years' experience as executives and professionals. They seek the degree because they not only are interested in furthering their careers, but also because they are driven by business research.

"More importantly," Mullarkey said, "many Muma DBA students now appreciate that a case study is a great research method for a manager who brings a wealth of practical experience to the table but has not previously conducted business-focused research."