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McGill Reporter
November 21, 2002 - Volume 35 Number 06
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Showdown in Texas

"We arrived in Austin on October 16, and went to the hotel. We were presented with our case at ten o'clock that night, and we had 60 hours to come up with our presentation. Those were a very intense 60 hours."

Intense or not, Andrés Friedman was thrilled with what he and three other commerce students were able to do in two and a half days.

Their team was one of four finalists in the International Business Challenge hosted by the University of Texas in Austin. Twenty-two universities from around the world were invited to the Lone Star state to tackle a real-world business problem -- in this case where to put a liquid gas terminal for British Petroleum.

"They wanted us to design a strategy that would ensure they had prime access to a growing market," explained Friedman.

None of the McGill students -- Friedman, Krista Balenko, Antoine Bisson-McLernon, Sophi Boulanger and faculty advisor Genevieve Bossellier -- had any experience in the natural gas market, and the materials that BP supplied them with were highly technical. Holing up in an Austin hotel ("A very nice hotel"), scouring the Internet and the Austin campus libraries, working on 2-hour snatches of sleep, the team waded through forests of sometimes contradictory information to get up to speed on the issues.

"The information was infinite. To optimize the research in 60 hours was the biggest challenge," said Friedman.

With the clock winding down, the next step was to come up with a plan. Costs had to analyzed, the market for gas projected over the next 20 years, technical data digested and incorporated. Here, Friedman said the teams' make-up helped their approach.

"I think our team was the most cross-functional -- we had someone in finance, someone in accounting and marketing and I'm in economics," he said.

On Saturday, Friedman and his team-mates presented to a panel of judges made up of University of Texas professors, consultants and British Petroleum executives. These are people who spend their lives on these issues, and Friedman said defending their numbers was a challenge.

"They look not only at your analysis, but how well you defend it," he said. If they trip you up, there's no backing down. "You have to stick to your guns, no matter what."

McGill's team made the final four, along with the other Canadian school, Queen's, the Norwegian School of Management, and eventual winner Texas A&M.

Friedman noted the real winner was British Petroleum. "They got 22 good teams of free consultants."

McGill student George J. Marshall of Cornwall, PEI was one of ten winners across Canada of the Cara Scholarship awards, worth $3500. The award is given by the restaurant service company to children of Cara employees.

Royal Victoria Hospital clinical disease researcher Dr. Samy Suissa was co-winner of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Distinguished Inves-tigator Award. The award recognizes those who are international leaders in their fields. Suissa looks at the risks of drugs prescribed for common and chronic diseases.

The Macdonald Woodsmen and Women log-rolled, sawed and hacked their way to the Canadian Intercollegiate Lumber-jacking Association cup at Sir Sanford Flemming College in Lindsay, Ont. The two teams dominated challengers from 35 colleges from Eastern Canada and the US It was the 14th consecutive championship for the women.

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