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UM News
May 02, 2013

MISSOULA – More than 1,600 students from all over the world recently competed in the semiannual Capsim Challenge to see who has the corporate intellect to be a winning CEO. University of Montana School of Business Administration graduate student Curtis Wallette rose to the top of the competition, taking first place in the challenge.

Students from more than 20 countries competed in the online challenge, in which participants manage a simulation of a multimillion-dollar company. Wallette, a Master of Business Administration candidate who lives in Billings, spent six to eight hours a day analyzing his business, strategizing his investments and “running” the company during the two-week semifinal competition in April.

Competitors managed a hypothetical company that developed sensors. They each started with $5 million in cumulative profits and $100 million in annual sales. But after starting in the same place, teams ended up in drastically different situations.

Curtis Wallette“It’s like a game of chess ­– everybody has the same pieces – but there’s a thousand pieces,” Wallette said. “You develop your own strategy, invest in different departments of your company, train people and develop a financial structure.”

Following a simulated eight-year period that included a recession and labor negotiations, Wallette ended the competition with about $100 million in profits, $250 million in sales and a final score nearly 100 points above his closest competitor. And just like in the real world of corporations, after dealing with curveball scenarios, some teams finished the competition “in the hole.”

Capsim is the world’s largest business simulation platform. More than 500 universities and corporations use the introductory Foundation or more complex Capstone programs. Wallette used the Foundation program as an undergraduate business student at Montana State University-Billings, but this year competed in the Capstone competition, which is available to students through the UM School of Business Administration.

Wallette will move to Missoula over the summer to begin autumn semester on campus and plans to graduate in spring 2014. While earning a bachelor’s in marketing and management at MSU-Billings, he considered joining the upper-management team at Wal-Mart, but decided to pursue an MBA with hopes of running his own company.

As an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Wallette served as president of the MSU-Billings chapter of American Indian Business Leaders. He led a team that won AIBL awards and took third place in the annual John Ruffatto Business Plan Competition, hosted by UM’s business school.

That competitive experience paid off in the Capsim Challenge, and Wallette attributes part of his success to seizing the right opportunities.

“I relied heavily on outside financing through the issuance of long-term bonds, current debt and stock, but did so in a way that maintained a responsible financial structure,” he said. “I also analyzed the competition and markets, noting strengths, weaknesses and opportunity. By year three, my strategy began to separate my company from those of my competitors and made mine the most profitable.”

Wallette has a lot of time to consider the opportunities and pitfalls that arise through Capsim business simulations. He currently works as a teaching assistant for UM Associate Professor Shawn Clouse’s Integrative Business Simulation course, coaching 12 student teams through their own simulations.

“The simulations are designed to get students to think like executives,” Clouse said. “They play against each other in class and make decisions based on how other people play the game.”

When he starts on-campus classes in autumn, Wallette again will serve as a teaching assistant with Clouse, offering valuable guidance to undergraduate students.

“Curtis knows the program really well,” Clouse said. “Probably better than some of the employees that work at Capsim.”

For more information call Wallette at 406-694-4160 or email curtis.wallette@umontana.edu.

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Contact: Curtis Wallette, student, UM School of Business Administration, 406-694-4160, curtis.wallette@umontana.edu; Shawn Clouse, associate professor, UM School of Business Administration, 406-243-5985, shawn.clouse@business.umt.edu.