Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Crash Course in Consulting

by Kristen Senz
March 2018 • CoolStuff

The Thayer Consulting Club Case Competition (TC4) put the following challenge out to 18 teams:

General Mills needs a creative new strategy to sustainably source 100 percent of its cocoa by 2020. In Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, where the company gets most of its cocoa beans, farmers are poor and uneducated, child labor is a major concern, and demand is growing for cocoa, a sensitive crop that needs specific farming conditions. What should General Mills do?

One undergraduate team—Thayer Dual-Degree Program students Rose Gold, Hatoon Mushasha, Madeleine Genereux, and Mary Tobin ’20—proposed that General Mills enhance its ability to store cocoa for longer periods, incentivize farmers to educate children, provide agricultural training, and rebrand its products to emphasize the conscientious sourcing.

Following two rounds of presentations, the team earned the coveted top prize: interviews for internships at McKinsey.

TC4 Winners' Certificates
Thayer Dual-Degree Program students Madeleine Genereux, Mary Tobin, and Rose Gold ’20, proudly show off their certificates after winning TC4 on Feb. 23. (Not pictured: Hatoon Mushasha. Photo courtesy of Thayer Consulting Club)

The runner-up team—MD/PhD candidate David Qian ’11 A&S’16 and Earth Sciences PhD candidate Huanping Huang—proposed that General Mills could increase productivity and decrease environmental degradation by investing in farmland, education, and agricultural technologies and by extending the shelf life of pre-processed cocoa.

TC4, the student-run Thayer Consulting Club’s (TCC) annual competition, held February 23, was sponsored by Google, LEK Consulting, and McKinsey, with each company sending a representative to help judge the proposals, along with judges from Thayer and Tuck School of Business. The competition was open to all students at Dartmouth.

Jonathan Pedde ’14, an associate at McKinsey, served as a judge this year, six years after participating in the competition himself as a math and economics major and engineering minor. “I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber and wide variety of ideas presented,” said Pedde. “Some were very out-of-the-box.”

For example, one team proposed that General Mills pull out of West Africa altogether and instead convince farmers in Ecuador to switch from growing coca (used in cocaine) to cocoa. It would be a public relations win, they said, and set an example for other firms.   

According to Thayer Consulting Club President Poorna Suresh Th’19, the competition organizers chose the General Mills problem from a case library at the University of Michigan because the challenge required the teams to perform both qualitative and quantitative analyses. “The two teams that won were very strong with their cost-benefit analysis and were also strong on the qualitative side,” she says.

And though the members of only one team would be interviewing for corporate internships, Suresh considers the whole competition as a win-win situation. “It kindled a lot of interest, which is a big part of what we want to do as part of the TCC,” she says, adding, “We established really good relationships with the firms that sponsored the competition. They all expressed interest in future partnerships with us.”

Tags: leadership, M.E.M., projects, students

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