‘Our programs are working’

Apr 18th, 2024

Susan White


Memorial University teams topped the best schools from around the world in two recent finance competitions.

In March, a team of four business students won the John Molson School of Business Van Berkom Small-cap Case Competition.

This was Memorial’s first time qualifying for the competition.

In April, another squad of four placed second at the William & Mary Women’s Stock Pitch Competition.

The Van Berkom team members are undergraduate business students Aryan Falke, Russell Noseworthy, Nathan Young and Pedro Gruner.

The William & Mary team members are Emily Gagné-Hedderson, Erica McShane, Abigail Martin and Sarah Smith, all undergraduate commerce students.

Dr. Erin Oldford, associate dean, undergraduate programs and accreditation, at the Faculty of Business Administration, was the faculty advisor for both teams.

The Van Berkom competition pits teams from across North America against each other in a preliminary round, during which teams submit assessments of a small-cap Canadian company.

“I think we all anticipated a whirlwind of intensity.”— Pedro Gruner

Nine teams are then selected to compete live over two days at Concordia University in Montreal.

This year’s finalists included teams from the University of Ottawa, HEC Montréal, University of Manitoba, Babson College, Bishop’s University, Cornell University and Queen’s University.

“The competition is known for its fast pace and the intellectual adaptability it demands,” said Mr. Gruner. “I think we all anticipated a whirlwind of intensity.”

Memorial was tied for third after day one, which involved assessing a company and a live Q&A with company managers. All teams received feedback from the judges to incorporate into their day two presentations.

“The actual competition was every bit as challenging as we’d braced for, maybe even more so,” said Mr. Gruner. “It tested our ability and really pushed us.

“Winning was surreal,” he added. “Coming from a small school relative to the other teams, it felt like a giant leap. Sharing this victory with Dr. Oldford and the team was very special.”

HEC Montréal finished second and the University of Manitoba placed third.

Only Canadian team

Over 50 schools from around the world applied for the William & Mary competition.

Twenty-four qualified to compete at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Va.

Memorial University was the only Canadian team to qualify.

Memorial finished fourth in 2023.

“We felt an overwhelming sense of pride, not only for ourselves but also for our university.”— Sarah Smith

Memorial topped the first-round pool and moved into the semi-finals against Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and host William & Mary.

“When our team made it past the first round of competition, we knew the challenge had only just begun,” said Ms. Smith. “When Team Memorial was announced as the winner for the second round, we felt an overwhelming sense of pride, not only for ourselves but also for our university.”

In the final, Memorial faced New York University and Utah State University. Utah was the eventual winner with Memorial in second.

“It was truly surreal,” said Ms. Smith. “It was an incredible milestone in our academic journeys, and a moment that will be forever imprinted in our memories.”

‘Incredible support network’

Key to the teams’ success was preparation and alumni support, the students say.

Both teams engaged industry mentors and alumni to provide feedback and work through case analyses and presentations in the lead-up to the events.

“An integral part of our training was working through three mock cases designed to simulate the Van Berkom competition’s intensity,” said Mr. Gruner, adding a panel of industry mentors provided feedback on the presentation. “It was certainly a reminder of the incredible support network we have behind us. Their dedication not only boosted our confidence but also brought us closer together as a team.”

Ms. Smith agrees.

“We’re so thankful to have a community of Memorial alumni and mentors that care deeply about the success of students, and jumped at the opportunity to help prepare us for the competition.”

Travel and registration for the competitions were also supported by the Associates Program at Memorial’s business faculty.

“These results say that our programs, particularly The Fund, are working.”— Dr. Erin Oldford

This membership-based program funds scholarships and supports experiential learning opportunities such as conferences and case competitions for business students.

Another important success factor is the quality of business programs at Memorial, says Dr. Oldford.

“Ultimately, what these results say about our undergraduate program is that we are effective in applied, experiential learning opportunities that build skillsets relevant to industry,” she said.

These opportunities include The Fund, of which five of the eight participating students are members.

The Fund is Memorial’s student-managed investment portfolio.

“These results say that our programs, particularly The Fund, are working,” Dr. Oldford added.

Advice for women

However, there’s still room for improvement with Ms. Smith being only one of two female members of The Fund this year.

“My advice to young women would be this: don’t limit yourself.”— Sarah Smith

Ms. Gagné-Hedderson, Ms. McShane and Ms. Martin were recruited for the competition based on their analytical, presentation and marketing skills.

And while those diverse skills resulted in competition success, they also provided some important lessons.

“My advice to young women would be this: don’t limit yourself,” said Ms. Smith. “If there are no women in the room, be the one woman.”

“I highly recommend The Fund to students from all backgrounds. It has opened many doors for me, introduced me to the world of capital markets and investing, and allowed me to form incredible relationships and mentorships that I will carry with me throughout my career.”