Three graduate students represented the Daniels College of Business in the Aker Talent Challenge
A trip to Norway … the opportunity to work with students from around the world … the possibility of securing a job.
How could Jonathan Goodfellow, Carolyn Lucca and Jasmine Shang pass up the chance to represent the University of Denver and its Daniels College of Business in a distinctive, multinational competition?
The short answer is, they couldn’t. So this October, the trio of graduate students boarded an Icelandic Air flight to take part in the Aker Talent Student Challenge. Each was placed on a team of international students and tasked with solving a problem for Aker Solutions and its subsidiaries that related to sustainability and renewable energy.
“A lot of times you go to these competitions and you’re just with your peers from the business school,” says Lucca, a graduate student in the finance program. “You’re never put in a setting where you don’t know anybody and you have to be a team and then give a presentation within 30 hours. That was just so cool that we could even do that.”
This represented DU’s first time taking part in the challenge, the product of a connection forged by alumnus, trustee, former ski champion and Norwegian national Otto Tschudi (BSBA ’75).
Typically, students participating in the challenge are split into teams of five — three engineers plus one student from an IT field and one from a business field. Half of the participants will generally receive job offers from the Aker network of companies. Coaches from Aker’s various divisions mentored the students through all stages of brainstorming, design and presentation.
Lucca’s team was challenged to incentivize everyday people to lend a scientific hand and collect data when out on the ocean. Her colleagues, Shang and Goodfellow, meanwhile, developed ways to save money on offshore wind-turbine blade replacement and ways to make drilling platforms more eco-friendly.
As they tackled their tasks, the Daniels students also learned to navigate a team environment that crossed cultural and industrial boundaries.
“When you come into a project like this, you have to understand that not everybody sees from your perspective,” says Goodfellow, a professional MBA student. He struggled to fuse his innovative mindset with the more mathematical, logical backgrounds of his teammates. “One of the things that I was quick to notice was the sense of urgency was very different amongst our group members,” he says.
For Shang, a Chinese student who hopes to use a degree in business information and analytics to work internationally, the challenge pushed her to think outside the box and be a team player.
“How people do business in China and how people do business in Norway is very different,” she says. “To me, the interesting part was that I could work with people from different countries,” as well as different specialties.
The trip abroad also offered a chance for Daniels associate dean and Chief Operating Officer Yee-Ann Cho to take the school’s name overseas. She hosted an alumni networking event in addition to watching her students compete.
“None of the Daniels students’ teams won, but that was almost beside the point,” Cho says. “The learning they got was just incredible. We have a really good product, and the students showed well. We have these global communities that are really supportive of us and our big focus on experiential education. There’s nothing more experiential than putting yourself in a different country and immersing yourself for 24 hours.”
These are exactly the kinds of opportunities that led Goodfellow to enroll at Daniels in the first place. Though he was already excited about the weeklong study abroad trip all Daniels residential MBA students must take, the competition in Norway was further confirmation that he made the right decision.
“It highlights one fundamental principle,” he says. “The University of Denver and the Daniels College of Business are committed to not only a global mindset but a global footprint and presence, too. We are taught to be global leaders and work collaboratively across teams and borders. We do not shy away from the challenges of today. We are taught to pioneer together.”