Kettering University DECA team excels at statewide competition thanks to co-op experience

Kettering University’s DECA team excelled at the 2019 Collegiate State Career Development Conference last month. The students’ co-op experiences and hands-on learning environment on campus prepared them for success in the competition that focused on quick reactions, critical thinking, and business planning.

Kettering was one of nine Collegiate DECA teams at the competition February 1-3 in Dearborn, Michigan, with 38 Kettering students participating. Overall, Kettering won 57 finalist medals, nine first-place plaques, 10 second-place plaques, and seven third-place plaques.   Kettering's DECA team was one of nine Collegiate DECA teams at the competition February 1-3 in Dearborn, Michigan, with 38 Kettering students participating.

“Kettering is unique. The majority of DECA members are business majors in almost all other colleges. What makes us unique is we are so diverse with Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, Engineering, and Business majors,” said Dr. Ken Williams, assistant professor for Kettering’s School of Management and DECA faculty advisor. “I think the diversity helps because there’s the STEM students, who are so logical in their thinking. The Business students are good at discerning ambiguity. They can cut through what's relevant. When you put that together that’s what makes us unique and successful.”

The DECA Collegiate Division includes more than 15,000 members in more than 250 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 were prepared events in front of judges in which students either presented a business plan for their new venture, presented a plan to grow their small business, or created an advertising plan for a product.

William Wakefield ‘23, an Applied Mathematics and Computer Science major at Kettering, was a finalist in Financial Accounting and received first place in the state for Emerging Technologies Marketing Strategies during the competition, which was his first ever DECA competition.

“I was in shock initially. I was elated afterwards, and quickly realized confidence and a unique, competitive strategy truly is key no matter how prepared you are to such a success,” Wakefield said. “Soft skills, especially confidence, is the biggest thing you learn from DECA. DECA prepares you to market well, but the skills required to win a competition extends further out of the whole program. What makes a Kettering student stand out in DECA is definitely the co-op. The co-op provides us real world experience in business, marketing, and more, giving us a more competitive edge in what is nothing more than simulations of real world events.”

Williams is never surprised that Kettering students do so well. The Kettering DECA members appreciate being able to step out of their comfort zones, he said. They already get a taste of that because of their co-op and do well stepping out of their comfort zone to research new topics and present to a judge.

Logan Wolschlager ‘20, a Mechanical Engineering major, has participated for two years at Kettering. This year he placed first in Professional Sales and earned third place in Sales Management Meeting.

“It is a moment that only happens a handful of times. During my first year with DECA, I did not place in professional sales. It was difficult to accept defeat, but I was determined to do better. I sat down with Dr. Williams several times to perfect my sales pitch and get it to the point I could sell my product to anyone. I did an extensive amount of research on my product to become an expert on it, and at the end of the day, it paid off, and I was able to take first place,” Wolschlager said. “Being an engineer, many people think you do not have the communication skills and people skills others possess, so I wanted to break this stereotype and exceed expectations in both of these areas. I believe DECA is a step in the right direction to grow this skill set.”

DECA is a unique twist on business that can help a student build necessary business skills that will become vital in co-op and a professional career. There are also a lot of networking opportunities that can help to create a vast network before graduating college. It also helps to bring the knowledge students learn in school and apply it to a real-world situation, Wolschlager said.

Students of all majors are encouraged to join.

“DECA provides not only a great networking opportunity of like-minded students all around but also provides an experience that allows for me to work on my soft skills: speaking, addressing client concerns, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and so much more,” Wakefield said.