Graduate students place No. 2 for case study on Elon Musk

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Kylie Brooks tells about her experience researching Elon Musk. (Rachel Keeler)

Graduate students Kylie Brooks and Sara May placed second in the nationwide Arthur W. Page 2019 Case Study Competition, in which participants studied CEOs and thought leaders around the world to see their impacts on stock markets and company stakeholders.

The two completed their case study on Tesla CEO Elon Musk, a powerful thought leader who Brooks and May called an “anomaly.”

Brooks follows Musk on Twitter, which helped her to formulate the case study. (Rachel Keeler)

The case competition had entries from communications and business students from around the country and was reviewed by public relations professionals.

According to Brooks, the project was assigned to them at the beginning of the Fall semester in one of their classes and had to be submitted for a grade in the class and then to the Arthur W. Page 2019 Case Study Competition upon completion.

“Tons of CEOs and C-Suite leaders are now public figures because of social media,” Brooks said. “The way they use social media can really have an effect on people, and we wanted to know if their social media use had an effect on their company’s stakeholders.”

Not only that, but according to May, personality and CEO behavior are becoming more and more inseparable from business culture and decisions.

Brooks said the pair had seen Musk tweet about Tesla going private and then “flip-flopping.” They also saw how these tweets lined up with dips in the stock market.

“Elon Musk is a huge thought leader and is in the news a lot,” Brooks said. “The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Tesla when we started our project, and it actually unfolded throughout our entire project.”

Brooks and May found the case to be particularly interesting because of events unfolding in real time.

“We found that Musk is not like other executives, and by doing his own thing, it has an effect on different stakeholders, but not to the extent we thought it would,” Brooks said. 

After more research and comparing Musk to different executives, the pair said they found Musk is on a downward trajectory.

“We expect that certain stakeholders will drop out of Tesla if he continues in the way that he’s going,” Brooks said.

Brooks and May knew they had great research, and they also got feedback from past competition winners and their professor before submitting.

“The thing that set our entry apart is two-fold,” May said. “We really put a lot of effort into making our entry aesthetically pleasing. Professor Wilson helped us dig deep into the details and the ‘why’s’ of this case study, which made it more intellectually stimulating.”

Brooks said the project was tricky because Musk’s trial was unfolding during the semester, but that also set the pair apart from other entries.

Brooks and May ended up placing second and expressed it was an honor to place in such a competitive competition. The competition awarded the team $1,500 in prize money. May said the competition helped her to see her true potential.

“This competition helped me see that potential is truly determined by hard work, vision and planning,” May said. “It confirmed my belief that I can achieve great things, and by working with others, we can achieve even better things.”

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