DECA chapter at UWRF, despite being young, does well in competitions

Posted October 26, 2016

The UW-River Falls DECA chapter got off to a surprisingly good start in its first year of competition in 2015. The team placed five individuals in the top 10 at an international conference in Washington, D.C.

The chapter had 13 members qualify for the Collegiate DECA International Career Development Conference after placing in the top three at the state conference.

The national DECA organization was founded in 1946 and formerly was known as Distributive Education Clubs of America. The organization is active in high schools and universities across the country.

Stacy Vollmers, the UWRF faculty advisor for DECA, was pleasantly surprised with how the first year went.

“We went to the state conference just trying to get a feel for how everything works and did really well,” Vollmers said.

DECA is for students who have an interest in developing leadership and entrepreneurial skills and competing. The competitions have four main categories: business management and administration, marketing and communication, hospitality and tourism, and finance and accounting.

Chapter President Alfonso Tolbert competes in the marketing sector. He and his team put together ad campaigns prior to the conference and are judged against other teams. Tolbert has found a lot of value in his experience with DECA.

“I think it’s helped me think quickly on my feet, think under pressure and still come up with a good presentation or a good result to show to someone,” Tolbert said.

Vollmers said she hasn’t really played as big of a role as some might think, especially with the early success of the program.

“I said I would be the advisor, but the students put together the constitution and pretty much ran with it,” Vollmers said. She gives all the credit to the students in the organization.

Vollmers, who is also an associate professor in the College of Business and Economics, travels with the chapter to all of its events.

“I missed nine school days last spring,” Vollmers said. “That part can take its toll on my classes, but I knew what I was signing up for.”

She said it’s all worth it to see all the growth the organization has made in the short time of its existence.

“Watching them go to these competitions and develop their confidence and their speaking skills has been a lot of fun,” Vollmers said.

Tolbert does a lot of the recruiting for the organization by going to classrooms and speaking about what DECA is all about. He said some students tend to think it’s just for business majors or for communication majors, but it’s not.

“These are skills that will help you no matter what you’re doing in your career,” Tolbert said. He said he always has to remind students that the organization is open to any major.

Vollmers said one of the biggest challenges with any student organization is transitioning leadership. The UWRF DECA chapter hasn’t faced that transition yet, but Vollmers is confident that the foundation is solid enough that it shouldn’t be that great of an issue when the time comes.

“They’ve handled everything well up to this point, so I’m not that concerned about it,” Vollmers said.