DECA district conference hosted for the first time at Haworth College of Business

Student, masked, wears a blazer with the DECA logo embroidered on the pocket.A group of exemplary high school students had a special opportunity to interact with the Haworth College of Business early this year. The District Conference for Michigan Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) took place on Western Michigan University’s campus in January, where over 500 high school students who participate in DECA competed in different events within six career clusters—business management and administration, entrepreneurship, finance, hospitality and tourism, marketing and personal financial literacy.

DECA is an organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for business around the globe. Students can participate in DECA at the high school or collegiate level. DECA encompasses 175,000 members from 3,200 high school chapters and 200 collegiate chapters across all 50 states. Beyond district conferences, DECA organizes a State Career Development Conference for finalists awarded at district conferences. Finalists awarded at the State Career and Development Conference go on to represent their state at the International Career Development Conference.

The District 3 Conference was comprised of students from 18 high schools across the West Michigan region. Competitors engaged in individual or team events like online stock market matches, role-plays, sales presentations and more within career clusters. WMU Haworth faculty and staff served as judges, while student ambassadors connected with DECA members between their events.

“Students were excited to be on a college campus, and in the Haworth College of Business for the day,” says Aubrey Utting, B.B.A.’17, M.A.’18, DECA advisor and high school business teacher at Battle Creek Central High School. “DECA students are very driven; you could feel the competitive spirit in the air.”

Student, masked, presents on financial topics in Greenleaf Trust Trading Room.

This was the first time the Haworth College of Business hosted the competition—an opportunity that Scott VanAvery, B.B.A.’04, manager of recruitment and outreach, wasn’t going to pass by as a longtime partner of DECA. “The Haworth College of Business believes in DECA and its mission as an organization. Any time we can partner to provide students the opportunity to succeed in a business setting and explore their talents, we’re happy to facilitate.”

Between events, DECA students were able to explore the college for the day. “We wanted the students to get to know WMU Haworth,” says VanAvery. Student ambassadors helped facilitate this connection by showing competitors the building and its programs. A few organized efforts were the Haworth Hive, where eight registered student organizations shared information about their groups, and A Walk down Wall Street, where a student in the finance program spoke on financial topics like cryptocurrency and the stock market.

“The Haworth College of Business was very accommodating and worked closely with DECA advisors to plan this event,” remarks Utting. “The day of the competition, faculty and staff were responsive to our needs and did a great job organizing this event. One of my students told me that she felt like she was in a prestigious environment at the college, and she thought the day was well-run and professional.”

Student, masked, in the sales and business marketing association shares information about the organization with DECA competitors.DECA members are motivated early on to pursue business concepts. Competitions like these build on participants’ career and interviewing skills. The high-achieving and determined students that are attracted to DECA can see the resources WMU Haworth offers as an asset to their futures. “Some of my students are interested in attending WMU to study business, so they were excited to get an inside look at the college,” says Utting.

A consistent theme of the day for both Haworth College of Business and DECA participants was support. An award ceremony concluded the competition where top individuals and teams were recognized, as well as state finalists moving on to the State Career Development Conference.

Jayla Robinson, DECA scholar from Battle Creek Central High School, was one of those finalists. Robinson shared her perspective on the day, “The district conference was a great learning experience. I’m so proud of myself and my other DECA members that made it to the state competition, and I hope we continue to succeed.”

That feeling was infectious and recognized by others who attended the ceremony. Utting shared it was inspiring to see her students celebrating each other’s hard work and achievements for the day.

Haworth College of Business students, masked, talk to DECA competitors between sessions.

Given limitations around in-person events over the past few years, Haworth College of Business faculty and staff aimed to deliver a well-rounded experience for competitors. “Our faculty and staff made this event successful—lending their time and positive attitudes to ensure high school students had encouraging interactions with the college, and showing them their potential to be Business Broncos,” voices VanAvery.

Looking ahead, the Haworth College of Business is excited to maintain this partnership with DECA and its members for future district conferences.