The theme of the 2019 Collegiate DECA International Career Development Conference held in Orlando, Florida from April 13 through 16 was “Ready for It,” with an emphasis on being ready to compete, lead, and win. Bringing home a total of 86 individual or team awards—and a chapter record of 16 students placing in the top 10 internationally and 18 students who made event finals—the UW-Whitewater Collegiate DECA team proved they were indeed ready to meet the challenge.
Frank Lanko, senior business career adviser and faculty adviser to the UW-Whitewater DECA chapter, summarized the team’s year-round success, saying, “From the continued track record we have enjoyed at the state conference to helping lead the State of Wisconsin to the largest delegation of competitors at ICDC, our students had a terrific year. UW-Whitewater brought home an incredible total of 225 individual and team awards this year between the state and international competitions.”
Demonstrating excellence in engagement and leadership throughout the year, the chapter was awarded the Presidential Level Chapter Leadership Passport Award for the fifth year in a row. This achievement places UW-Whitewater among only 10 of 250 chapters in the nation. The chapter also earned the Chapter Community Service Award and brought home 18 Individual Leadership Passport awards.
There were several significant individual honors, as well. Julia Gahr, a sophomore with a double major in accounting and supply chain and operations management, took international first place in the retail management event. Gahr was involved with DECA in high school and joined the collegiate DECA chapter as a freshman at UW-Whitewater. She had placed in the top 10 in the Retail Management event in 2018 and hoped to place in the top three in 2019.
Reflecting on the success of the team as well as her personal achievement, Julia shared, “I am so pleased with UW-Whitewater Collegiate DECA’s historical performance this year at ICDC. I don’t think we could be any more excited for each other and I am proud to be a part of a group of students who are ambitious, creative, and amazing. As always, we have our incredible adviser, Frank Lanko, to thank for supporting us every step of the way.”
Among many highlights from this premier international event, Daedre Whalen and Kayla Maksen competed as a team to win second place in the Sports and Entertainment Marketing event, Treise Lanhammer and Lauren Hanson won second place in the Entrepreneurship – Start a Business event, and Abbey Litzau won third place in the Emerging Technologies – Marketing Strategies event. The team of Anya Bower, Emily Hayden, and Zuri Vazquez won second place in the online Stock Market Game, while Adam Compton finished third in the same event.
Many of the events involve a pre-event exam, followed by presentations at the conference. In addition to competitive prowess, DECA ICDC recognizes leadership and scholastic excellence. Daedre Whalen and Kayla Maksen received chapter leadership awards for their leadership, community service, and success in competition. Nine UW-Whitewater students were also recognized for performance in the classroom by holding a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above. John Weber and Tara Liegel were also recognized for individual performances in role play and testing events for Hotel and Lodging and Travel and Tourism events.
Recapping his experience, John Weber, a sophomore with a double major in finance and entrepreneurship, shared, “Although I did not finalize in the two events I competed in, I was able to get a top score in the exam portion of my competition. This experience has taught me the importance of preparation and that there is always room for improvement. I look forward to taking what I have learned from this conference and building on it next year.”
Junior marketing major and chapter president Emily Hayden related some of the benefits she has reaped through DECA and ICDC, saying, “Being involved in collegiate DECA and participating in competitive events improves public speaking and presentation skills, and prepares you for on-the-spot thinking. Beyond building confidence, this helps you succeed in professional settings. I have been able to directly relate my DECA experiences during job interviews, which is invaluable. In addition, serving on the executive board, especially as chapter president, has provided me opportunities to build my leadership and people skills.”
Julia Gahr shared her perspective, saying, “With DECA, you get to compete in categories you wouldn’t normally experience through your major. You can test out a new area of interest without a significant commitment. It is also a great way to build friendships and connections with faculty and staff.” She urged fellow students, “Participating in a student organization will make you much more career-ready than if you did not. With DECA in particular, you will build an amazing LinkedIn network, gain skills, get out of your comfort zone, and have fun. It can be a life-changing experience.”
UW-Whitewater 2019 ICDC Award Recap