May 18, 2023

Winning at innovation: Haskayne MBA team comes out on top in international competition

Haskayne Executive MBA team wins IXL Innovation Olympics showing that UCalgary students can 'play on a global stage'
The winning team standing together inside Mathison building.
Winning team, from left: Greg (William) Conlin, Kayode Adetimehin, Jason Smiechowski, Robert Schulz, Rob Gray, Tammy Kristiansen, Julia McElgunn. Elyse Bouvier

A Haskayne Executive MBA team has won the IXL Innovation Olympics this month, making them the 20th Haskayne team to take home gold since 2015. It's an impressive record for a school that is still often seen as an underdog competing against big-name business schools like MIT and the Asian Institute of Management in Manila.

Each year, global companies go to IXL with real problems they face and over seven weeks, student consulting teams from across the world present innovative solutions. "The initial reaction to the problems we're presented with is always 'This is impossible'," says Dr. Robert Schulz, PhD, professor at the Haskayne School of Business. "But every team has really dug in and said, 'If we're going to do this, we're going to be really good.'"

Clearly, the judges agree. In addition to this top prize, another team at Haskayne placed second in their competition round. "It just shows that Haskayne students can play on a global stage."

Competitions like the Innovation Olympics are an important experiential learning opportunity for students at UCalgary. Alongside the mentorship of experts, the real-life scenarios they encounter allow them to put the skills they've learned in the program to practical use with real results.

"The skills stick and the confidence sticks."

- Bob Shulz

"Winning this competition was very humbling," says Tammy Kristiansen, an EMBA student and graduate recruitment strategist at the Haskayne School of Business. "To compete against these really high-profile teams really validates the practical and applicable learnings that we get at Haskayne."

All Haskayne Executive MBA students have opportunities for real-world field experience either through a capstone project, Creative Destruction Lab - Rockies (CDL-Rockies), or the Innovation Olympics as part of a strategic business analysis class.

Kristiansen says, "It was a nice crown to win the competition in the last week of class. We used everything from skills in finance to data modelling and leadership skills because we were a dynamic team. The competition really pulled in all the different skills that we had just spent two years learning."

Kristiansen encourages anyone who's thinking about applying for Innovation Olympics to just dive in. "It's incredibly intensive but stick with it because the value at the end is definitely worth it. You may not be the subject matter expert but you can still help come up with innovative solutions."

The IXL Innovation Olympics has several cycles a year and MBA students interested in participating or in other experiential learning opportunities can get more information through the Haskayne School of Business.

The Office of Experiential Learning leads initiatives to support, amplify and expand experiential learning (EL) opportunities for students across campus in alignment with UCalgary’s institutional plan. By 2025, our goal is for every undergraduate student at the university to have participated in at least two EL opportunities and for graduate students to have participated in one. The campus community is invited to share stories of experiential learning in their classes or beyond by getting in touch with our team at or learning more about the plan.

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