Eau Claire DECA chapter headed to nationals

Story by Alisha Taubner

Business professor Emily Elsner Twesme said she decided to become a teacher because she loves working with her students and helping them grow. So it seemed to her like a perfect match when she became the new faculty adviser for  UW-Eau Claire’s  DECA chapter in November 2011.

With the goal of excelling in the 2012 Collegiate DECA Wisconsin State Career Development Conference in March,  Twesme said she approached DECA’s weekly meetings a little differently this year.

“This semester … all of our meetings were devoted to preparing for the state competition,” Twesme said.

The students did case studies together, practiced on weekends and gave presentations on professionalism and listening. Their hard work paid off.

For the first time, all 15 Eau Claire students competing in the state conference qualified to compete at the 51st International Career Development Conference which will be held April 21 through 24 in Salt Lake City. Five of these students will be making the trip to participate.

Students qualify for nationals by earning a high score on either a proficiency exam or case study competition in the state
conference. In a case study students are given a prompt and a short time to prepare a response before they present their cases to a panel of judges. Case studies generally cover categories including business ethics, entrepreneurship, retail and restaurant management.

DECA’s national competitions give students the opportunity to compete with others from all over the United States and Canada.

“It’s just really great to think that we can go compete at this level with hundreds of students across the country and that all their hard work pays off in the end,” Twesme said.

She said practice and preparation are key when competing in these events, but much of the competition requires students to be able to improvise and think on their toes.

“It’s a really great way for them to use their knowledge in a practical way,” Twesme said.

This is the second year that sophomore Nicole Leners, DECA’s president, has qualified for the national conference. For Leners, however, DECA is more than just a competition.

“This is a great way to learn how to network,” Leners said, “and a great way to learn how to be a professional.”

Although DECA attracts mostly business and marketing majors, it is not exclusive to these students. The organization welcomes any student who wishes to compete.

“That’s definitely an image we are trying to change,” Leners said. “It doesn’t matter what major you go into or career field you go into, you’re going to need to learn how to be a professional … that’s what the competitions are about. It’s getting comfortable portraying your ideas and selling yourself.”

DECA is an international organization which prepares high school and college students for careers involving marketing, finance, hospitality and management. It aims to help students apply what they learn in class to the business world as well as improve professionalism and networking skills.

Twesme said she thinks DECA might be the most valuable experience in the career of a college student.

“I wish that more students would get involved. If you want (experience) that’s actually going to help you when you get a job I can tell you … this is it.”