Brandcenter winners to split $20,000 prize

Originally published February 2, 2012 in The Commonwealth Times

Last Friday at 3:59 p.m., four VCU Brandcenter students poised themselves to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

The team of graduate advertising  students won the title of “The World’s Most Innovative MBAs” and $20,000 at last week’s ninth annual Innovation Challenge.

The four-person team was first-year Brandcenter graduate students Jennifer Clinehens, Ryan Dowling, Katlyn Williams and Cody Pate. None of the team members are actually MBA students.

The team was awarded the lump sum to split evenly between them. In addition to reducing student loans and credit-card debt with their winnings, the team said they plan on throwing a small celebration at the Brandcenter in honor of all students who competed at the challenge. Two other VCU teams placed in their category at the challenge.

The win comes as a pleasant surprise to team leader Clinehens, who said she attributes the win to hard work and a good program.

“I think that’s just a testament to Brandcenter and VCU and this whole unique interdisciplinary program, and … the value of hard work,” she said.

The team designed a solution that would increase efficiency and reduce costs for small businesses using cloud platforms for sponsor AT&T Inc.

No major details of the project are released, as AT&T Inc. can use their idea commercially.

The team, called “Brandslam,” beat out 185 teams in the challenge, including teams from Yale, Standford, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.

“Not all the great thinkers are at just a handful of schools,” Clinehens said. “We’re everywhere.”

“It just goes to show that what the Brandcenter is teaching and what we’re learning and doing here can solve the exact same problems that MBAs are facing,” said Dowling, a creative technologist.

“This win serves to validate the Brandcenter’s focus on developing unexpected consumer insights and then using those insights to craft imaginative strategies that enhance the market power of brands. … There is no better example of this approach at work than can be seen in the winning effort of our Innovation Challenge teams,” said Professor Don Just, faculty adviser to the Brandcenter teams who competed in the challenge.

But the team said even after winning the competition, there is still work to be done.

“You are only as good as the last thing you did,” Clinehens said. “It’s an honor, but we have to be realistic; we can’t skate by on this, we still have to work just as hard as everyone else.”

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