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UW MBA Students Participate in Strategic Initiative Projects with Noted Businesses

October 30, 2013

University of Wyoming MBA students and faculty members recently served as industry consultants to resolve strategic challenges faced by four large organizations.

As part of the MBA program’s Strategic Project Initiative Program, the students worked with EnCana Corp., Marathon Oil Corp., Global Healthcare Exchange (GHX) and RE/MAX Obsidian Real Estate LLC.

“UW MBA’s Strategic Project Initiative program provides MBA students with hands-on, cross-functional experiences by addressing real business challenges across diverse industry segments,” says Steve Farkas, MBA director. “UW MBA students possess the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to make relevant contributions that translate to strategic action plans for sponsoring firms.”

UW faculty advisers were Shaun Andrikopoulos, Ultra Petroleum visiting professor of management (EnCana); Benjamin Cook, Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute visiting assistant professor (Marathon); Philip Varca, Department of Management professor (GHX); and Eli Beracha, assistant professor of finance and real estate (RE/MAX).

The student team assigned to GHX produced a series of reports that allowed the company to understand and better predict future costs of a number of activities, including implementation, customer support and development. The students also assessed the company’s organizational behavior and identified areas of improvement to prevent employee burnout and increase employee satisfaction in their jobs. GHX’s mission is to reduce costs in the health care supply chain.

“Our project gave us firsthand experience with accessing and prioritizing company data and then using it to make business decisions,” says UW MBA team member Sean Valentine of Rock Springs. “We also were able to take away firsthand experience on conducting employee interviews to assess morale and conducting time studies to create a benchmark for measuring costs.”

Energy MBA candidate Gregory Simons of San Antonio, Texas, worked with EnCana. He and his teammates had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend the largest clean transportation expo in North America, with more than 100 vendors.

“The opportunity to travel and network with individuals and representatives from a variety of industries across the world really helped me become more confident in my communication skills and my ability to network,” Simons says. “I also gained a lot of knowledge and insight from people in an industry I hope to enter after graduation, so the trip was extremely rewarding and a great learning experience.”

Second-year MBA student Allegra Ramey of Cheyenne was a member of the team assigned to Rob Cheek, owner of RE/MAX Obsidian Real Estate in Jackson. The team conducted a feasibility study for a $25 million commercial real estate project. Ramey says her newly acquired financial analysis skills “will prove to be beneficial in determining the probability of return” should she start her own business after graduation.

Evidence of the students’ success is found in the feedback provided by the MBA Strategic Project Initiative’s corporate sponsors, Farkas says.

“The material furnished will be used to solicit investors to the project; it provides a neutral, third-party assessment of the project’s feasibility and viability. We were impressed by the students’ enthusiasm and thoroughness,” says Cheek. “I would absolutely encourage others to take advantage of this wonderful resource; it benefits the client and the students in meaningful ways.”

Ali Larson, GHX corporate performance executive director, says the UW team, “exhibited great ability to adapt to our changing business needs, while demonstrating great commitment, and ultimately execution to deliver the desired business results.”

EnCana's Sherrie Merrow adds that the UW MBA students provided good research and analysis on a topic that had data acquisition challenges.

“Their professionalism and proactive management of the project was impressive. The students’ findings will aid in our continued discussions as to utilities’ best roles in increasing the natural gas vehicle market,” she says.

Farkas says the MBA program is seeking corporate partners to sponsor projects next summer. Interested organizations should submit a project proposal form found on the “Corporate Relationships” link on the MBA website at

For more information, contact the MBA Program office at (307) 766-2449 or email

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