Kettering University DECA team earns top awards at State Career Development Conference

A total of 19 students from Kettering University’s DECA team are moving on to the international competition after earning high placements at the 2018 Michigan Collegiate DECA Career Development Conference.

Kettering was one of 10 Collegiate DECA teams at the competition in Grand Rapids Feb. 2-4, and students walked away with six first place plaques, seven second place plaques and eight third place plaques, along with 23 other finalist medallions.

“The students overall did extremely well. Fourteen out of the 31 students, this was their first year in DECA. I was impressed by that,” said Dr. Ken Williams, assistant professor for Kettering’s School of Management and DECA faculty advisor. “I was impressed that we had some individuals that competed in categories we never have before - financial statement analysis. The two students involved in that team study took first place, even though it was their first year in DECA.” DECA

The 2018 International Career Development Conference is in April in Washington, D.C. The DECA Collegiate Division includes more than 15,000 members in 275 colleges and universities. DECA is designed to prepare students to be emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.

Kettering students were tested on their interview skills and resumes, role-played as industry professionals, and applied problem solving skills to case studies. There also was prepared events in front of judges where students either presented a business plan for their new venture, a plan to grow their small business, or create an advertising plan for a product.

Williams said Kettering’s DECA team is academically diverse. The team isn’t just for Business majors. The team this year was made up of 21 Engineering majors, eight Business majors and two Math majors.

“I think that Kettering students do so well regardless of their major. Our engineers are taught to be very systematic and logical and concise. When you have only 15 minutes to present that’s an advantage for them. Our business students are taught to cut through the ambiguity and determine what’s relevant in their decision making. When you bring those two together that's what makes Kettering students so dynamic,” Williams said.

Kettering students’ co-op and classroom experiences help them succeed in DECA, said Calloway Salmon ‘20, President of Kettering’s A-Section DECA team.

“Kettering prepares you more for those types of situation where you have to think quickly on your feet, be able to problem solve and look at problems from a more technical standpoint and not just a business mindset,” said Salmon, a Mechanical Engineering major who placed second in the entrepreneurial category for Starting a Business. “The technical side and business background from co-op gives you an advantage at the DECA competitions. The engineers benefit from DECA because it allows you take what you’ve learned in engineering and convey it in a way that makes sense to somebody who just understands the business side of things.”

Emily Kurburski ‘20, Business major and President of Kettering’s B-Section DECA team, is proud of how well the DECA team did at the state competition. Even with a young team, Kettering students already had the skills to succeed during the competition.

“It’s a good opportunity for students to step outside of our co-ops and step outside of the tools we get at school in our classes. You have the time crunch of real world situations and having to create a real solution. It’s a good challenge for everyone to help you grow, on top of improving public speaking skills,” said Kurburski, who earned first place in the business research preparative event and was a finalist in the accounting event. “ I think the biggest thing for me is experiencing new things. I chose an area that I was unfamiliar with - accounting. Those type of experiences don’t happen very often. I came up with a business plan in 30 minutes. It’s definitely given me a lot of confidence over the last five years in DECA to speak confidently on the things that I am doing research on.”

This is Salmon’s third time qualifying for the International DECA competition while in college. He also was involved in high school. Having the opportunity to be in DECA challenges him and helps him succeed, he said.

“It broadens your view on what exactly business is. It doesn’t really help you in the aspect of going back to school. The big things that I’ve noticed that DECA has done for me and others is that it really lets you network with the judges and other students,” Salmon said. “Everyone is on an equal playing field coming in. There is no resume attached to what you do. But how students present themselves makes a different. You have a 15 minute presentation, but only 30 minutes to prepare.

“It’s free practice for trying to present ideas to a manager. The nice thing is it's not associated with your current employer so even if you make mistakes or present an idea that is not best case for your industry, there aren’t consequences. There are no negatives to DECA. All you can do is gain experience.”