Senior supply chain student named 'The Next CEO'

University Park, Pa. -- Smeal College of Business student Douglas Burke, a senior majoring in supply chain and information systems, outlasted nine of his classmates on April 21 to win the college's unique executive simulation challenge, The Next CEO.

The annual competition requires contestants to play the role of CEO of a global corporation, leading their companies through complex business crises and major international disruptions.

Portraying the CEO of Procter & Gamble, Burke impressed the panel of five executive judges as he explained how he will lead his company through the current economic downturn, weather supply chain disruptions, and expand in China and India. As winner, he took home $2,000 in PNC Visa gift cards from lead sponsor PNC.

Playing the role of Starbucks CEO, senior marketing major Jessica Walton took home the second-place prize of a plasma television, courtesy of Shell. And third-place winner Santosh Sankar, a sophomore majoring in finance representing Bristol-Myers Squibb, won a $500 gift card from sponsor Dick's Sporting Goods.

The final round of the competition typically includes three students; however, because of a tie, four contestants ended up competing. As a result, executive judge and Smeal alumnus John Wolfe, vice president and treasurer of Dick's Sporting Goods, offered an impromptu $500 Dick's gift card prize for fourth place. That prize went to Andrew Spicher, a junior majoring in supply chain and information systems, who played the role of Boeing's CEO.

The evening began with all 10 competitors being asked how they will find continued success for their corporations in the current economy. The students had about 40 minutes to prepare a response while Erik Peterson, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), presented the think tank's "Seven Revolutions" to the several hundred audience members in attendance.

The Seven Revolutions are major global trends projected by Peterson and his colleagues to drastically alter the world out to the year 2025. They form the backdrop of the Next CEO competition.

Five students moved on to the second round where they were presented with another scenario by Peterson. Finally, four students were selected for the final round where they had to answer a series of rapidly fired questions regarding their companies.

Preparation for the competition began in February when Smeal's office of Career and Corporate Services took 14 potential contestants to Washington, D.C., to study alongside experts in international economics and politics at CSIS. CSIS scholars engaged the students on topics including global oil economics, the Middle East conflict, and China's growing economic presence.

At the conclusion of the Washington trip, each student was assigned a corporation, which they studied up until the day of the competition in order to successfully answer questions from the point of view of its CEO.

In addition to Wolfe, the judges for this year's competition were Ame Cameron, new business development manager, Shell Oil Products U.S.; Henry Long Jr., senior vice president, procurement, Altria Group; Julie McHugh, company group chairman, R&D and commercial, worldwide virology business, Johnson & Johnson; and Thomas K. Whitford, chief administrative officer, The PNC Financial Services Group.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009