UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | September 21, 2023

Collegiate DECA offers students connections, real experience

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Before a Dixie State University alumna became a member of the collegiate DECA club, she went through the motions of school without a clear vision of her future.

After taking a two year break from school to work full time, alumna Emily Fisher found a passion for digital marketing and returned to DSU to pursue a communication degree. 

Although she was driven to further her education in digital marketing, Fisher said she didn’t know what steps to take to turn her passion into a career; however, the moment she joined DECA, she found a constant source of inspiration that narrowed the direction she wanted to go.

Collegiate DECA is a business and marketing association that focuses on five categories: business management and administration, finance and accounting, marketing and communication, hospitality and tourism, and entrepreneurship. Students can participate in the club and enroll for collegiate DECA 1530R to practice how to analyze and solve real world business cases in front of their peers.

“Talking to advisers and hearing their wisdom, as well as interacting with the students in the class and the club, helped me build the stepping stones to where I am, and even have the stepping stones to where I want to get in the next three to five years,” Fisher said. “If I wouldn’t have been a part of DECA, I would’ve been directionless after graduation.”

Aside from encouraging students to find their way when they eventually graduate, DECA focuses on:

Competing nationally and internationally

Within these five categories, students can compete alone or with a partner to develop a solution to a real business case scenario. After developing a structured presentation, students present their approach to a judge for evaluation.

This year, all 14 of DSU’s DECA students who competed in the 2018 Utah Collegiate DECA State Career Development Conference qualified to compete in the international conference in Washington D.C.

Although DSU is a relatively smaller school compared to its Ivy League competitors, Karman Wilson, the cultural arts coordinator and DECA co-adviser said DSU continues to come out with top 12 or top three placements.

“The advisers know how to prepare students, but…we just have an amazing caliber of students who are willing to put in the time to be ready for competition,” Wilson said.  

Practicing interview skills and public speaking

Matthew Harris, assistant professor of management information systems, said by competing in various conferences, students not only learn how to focus on the most important elements of their presentation, but they also grow to become more comfortable speaking in front of larger audiences. 

“The feedback I get from students who have done it in the past, especially if they’re like, ‘I’m not much of a public speaker, and I’m not good at that type of stuff’…by the end of the course and the club, they’re like, ‘Interviews? No problem,’’’ Harris said. 

By strengthening students’ ability to speak in a confident and concise manner, Wilson also stressed how crucial it is for their future career endeavors. 

“In any profession you need to be able to market yourself,” Wilson said. “The best way you can do that is how you present yourself and how you speak.”

Whether you are in class presenting practice business solutions or competing conferences, Wilson said DECA can significantly sharpen your interpersonal skills.

Networking

Because DECA students are given the opportunity to present real solutions to issues businesses face, Adobe reached out to various DECA chapters to compete. After reviewing multiple solutions, Adobe implemented DSU students’ ideas and even offered them the chance to tour their facility, Harris said.

“We had some students who took advantage of the opportunity and contacted [Adobe], and they took a tour of the Adobe Headquarters in Salt Lake City,” Harris said. “[An Adobe Employee] said to them,  ‘I am shocked [because] we rarely have students come back and take the tour. You guys stand out to me because you took the time to see what we are all about.’”

For Fisher, networking among her peers in DECA proved to be another valuable asset. 

“DECA is an incredible networking tool because you’re interacting with some of the smartest and [most] driven students at DSU,” Fisher said.

By engaging with these students, she not only made lasting friendships, but also was informed of a potential internship opportunity at Wilson Electronics. Today, she manages the marketing for this consumer electronics brand.

“It’s fun looking back now where I am professionally and seeing exactly how it opened doors of opportunity for me,” Fisher said. “A lot of the skills I practiced in class and during competitions applies every day to what I do.”