Kettering University students earn five first place honors at DECA’s State Career Development Conference

DECA really takes you outside your comfort zone. With that you grow in all kinds of different ways, not just solely as education goes. It grows you as a person.”

Kettering University’s DECA team showed up in record numbers at the 2017 Michigan Collegiate DECA Career Development Conference.

A total of 32 Kettering students competed at the conference, which took place Feb. 3-5 in Grand Rapids, and 30 placed and are eligible to continue on to the DECA International Career Development Conference in California in April.

Kettering students walked away with five first place awards, three second place awards and 18 third place awards.

“This is the biggest group that’s ever competed at the Michigan DECA conference. The student leadership was phenomenal,” said Dr. Ken Williams, associate professor in the Business department and faculty advisor of Kettering’s DECA team. “I’m extremely proud of everyone. I expected them to do well. Kettering has always done well at the DECA events, but they blew me away. At least half of our team are freshmen or new to the team.”

The DECA Collegiate Division includes over 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 was also 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.

Students learn teamwork, leadership skills, practical applications of what is being taught in class, critical thinking and being able to think quickly on their feet while participating in DECA.

Students are also learning how to respond in a business atmosphere, said Michael Smith, Dean of the School of Management at Kettering.

“I’m delighted there are a large number of engineering students in the DECA group. Among other things, they learn the ability to work in teams and the ability to engage the human side of business. They have the opportunity to see what it takes to effectively manage in a business setting, which may be a different way of thinking for some engineers,” Smith said. “In the business side we tend to get caught up in cost and with the engineering side we think about what features we can render. This way we get to combine those.”

For the students involved, it’s an opportunity for them to grow as students and professionals, said Troy DeLong ‘18, President of Kettering’s B-Section DECA team.

DeLong, who earned third place in the Human Resources Management Case Study, is majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He participated in DECA in high school and decided to join the Kettering team during his sophomore year.

“Coming from an engineering degree in general, we are always thinking outside of the box. One thing we take from DECA is we learn to think on our feet a lot quicker. It really builds our personal skills and managerial qualities,” DeLong said. “DECA really takes you outside your comfort zone. With that you grow in all kinds of different ways, not just solely as education goes. It grows you as a person.”

Calloway Salmon ‘20, President of Kettering’s A-Section DECA team, is also a Mechanical Engineering major but saw the benefits of expanding his business background while in school.

Salmon, who placed first in entrepreneurial categories at the Michigan conference this year and first at the international conference in 2016, said DECA gives students confidence in the workplace and in school. Since Kettering students have co-op experiences added to their education, they ultimately have a leg up at competitions.

“It speaks to the co-op experiences the students have done through their schooling. DECA teaches you to be comfortable in presenting your ideas and being able to present them clearly and precisely to someone in a managerial position,” he said. “Personally I’ve learned that it’s not so much what your idea is but how you convey your message and have confidence in your idea while being able to prove it. If you can do that and show a plan to make it work, people will take a chance on you.”

Salmon said his DECA experience has been worth every moment.

He started working at 14 as a caddy at a golf course. There he was able to talk to people who have been successful and learn from them at a young age.

“I learned that you need a business background to really be successful. DECA is the next step in that lesson,” Salmon said. “DECA is something every student at Kettering should consider doing. The networking and the skills you learn are things that will last a lifetime.”

For any Kettering students interested in joining the DECA team, meetings take place on Thursdays during lunch in the Business department office.