MBA Students at Michigan Ross to Compete in 24-hour Crisis Simulation to Develop Critical Problem-Solving Skills in High-Stakes Environment


Immersive Program of Sanger Leadership Center Brings Action-Based Learning to Life for Students During Leadership Crisis Challenge

The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business today announced the annual Leadership Crisis Challenge, one of the most ambitious and immersive leadership development programs of its kind for business school students. Organized by the school’s Sanger Leadership Center, the 2016 MBA Leadership Crisis Challenge will task business school students with role-playing a company’s senior executive team as it navigates the company through a high-stakes, high-pressure simulated crisis scenario over a 24-hour period. For the past nine years, the Crisis Challenge has tested students’ ability to strategize through extreme turbulence, think on their feet, and demonstrate poise under pressure. This year’s challenge will take place Jan. 14-15 for MBA students and is sponsored by PNC Bank.

The Challenge is an intensive program that tests students’ ability to adapt to a changing situation, navigate ambiguity, think critically, and perform under pressure. On the night the Challenge starts, students are divided into 25 teams and learn the first details of the crisis they must face. Throughout the night, the crisis unfolds in real time via email, phone calls, social media, and face-to-face communications. The next morning, teams present their strategic plans for managing the crisis to a Board of Directors consisting of industry executives and Michigan Ross faculty and staff. Five teams move on to the final round, where they will be grilled at a press conference by real journalists, after which the winning team is named.

“We strongly believe that one of the best ways for students to learn is by doing—and the Crisis Challenge immerses students in real-world problems and requires them to come up with nuanced, practical solutions,” said Scott DeRue, associate dean and faculty director of the Sanger Leadership Center. “Students are challenged to think on their feet with limited information in a high-stakes, sensitive situation, and are judged on their ability to lead with composure and poise. The ability to lead under pressure and adapt on the fly are necessary skills for students to have as they progress in their careers.”

PNC Regional President Ric DeVore, a Michigan graduate, explained why PNC is a sponsor of this year’s Crisis Challenge. “Today’s business world is faster-paced and more complex than ever, and everyone—from new hires to executives—needs to be quick on their feet with solutions as problems arise. Michigan Ross allows students a unique opportunity to test their ideas and reactions to the kinds of major problems business leaders need to meet head-on. The Michigan Ross community prepares students to not only succeed but excel in any situation.”

Since the program’s launch nine years ago, the Leadership Crisis Challenge has grown to include separate challenges held for undergraduates and specialty masters program students both at Ross and from the wider university community. This year’s additional challenges will be held Feb. 4-5 for undergraduate students and March 24-25 for non-MBA graduate students. As one of the signature experiences offered through the school’s Sanger Leadership Center, the Crisis Challenge speaks directly to the Center’s mission of developing leaders who thrive in complex and dynamic business environments by showing empathy, drive, integrity, and courage.

Follow all of the Crisis Challenge action on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #RossLeaders or learn more at


About Michigan Ross
The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan is a vibrant and distinctive learning community grounded in the principle that business can be an extraordinary vehicle for positive change in today's dynamic global economy. The Ross School of Business mission is to develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world. Through thought and action, members of the Ross community drive change and innovation that improves business and society.

Ross is consistently ranked among the world's leading business schools. Academic degree programs include the BBA, MBA, Part-time MBA (Evening and Weekend formats), Executive MBA, Global MBA, Master of Accounting, Master of Supply Chain Management, Master of Management, and PhD. In addition, the school delivers open-enrollment and custom executive education programs targeting general management, leadership development, and strategic human resource management.

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