By Nichole Marquis – DECA Inc. is a nonprofit student organization which, as their mission statement describes, “prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe” (deca.org). DECA consists of over 200,000 high school and college students from around the world who gain knowledge through DECA’s competitive events and conferences. Collegiate DECA students compete on a state level through Missouri’s chartered association at the State Career Development Conference, then on a national level at DECA’s Collegiate International Career Development Conference.
After founding the chapter in the fall of 2015, first year students, Nichole Marquis and Alex Blevins represented Jewell at the Collegiate DECA International Career Development Conference in Washington D.C. The pair previously attended the Collegiate DECA State Career Development in February of 2016 where they placed 2nd in the Event Planning Case Study qualifying theme to compete at the international level. With previous experiences in High School DECA, both students were very excited to attend another DECA International Conference.
On Saturday, the first day of the conference, Marquis and Blevins were given ample time to explore the city after checking in for their competitive events. The pair took the opportunity to visit the surrounding downtown metro district including China Town, the National Mall, the Library of Congress, and several other hotspots in the area. Saturday night’s opening sessions featured awards and guest speakers to start off the following days of competition. William Jewell College was recognized as a new chapter this year, one of several on the growing collegiate side of DECA. Marquis and Blevins were asked to join the DECA executive presidents, elected collegiate DECA students, on the stage to receive recognition.
Sunday the conference hosted special seminars and question and answer sessions with local business leaders in the District. Event Planning, the competitive event Marquis and Blevins were participating in was placed under a special academy designated for Hospitality and Tourism competitions. Among the presenters included a panel of individuals who work in the growing market of full hotel-style-service condominium developments, a vastly growing market in the District, a human resources policy developer from Chipotle, and a recent graduate from Johnson and Wales University discussing the perspective of a student going straight into the hospitality job market.
Monday during competition, Blevins and Marquis participated in their event planning role-play, where they created a presentation in an hour that followed the set criteria of a prompt. The situation was then presented to a judge. During the event debriefing that afternoon, the pair was able to sit down with their judge and the other judge from the event to discuss their performance and the real world of event planning on a large convention and resort scale. Both judges were event planners at Marriott working for different Marriott branded resorts in the greater District area. The team finished in the top 30% of their competitive category.
As a voting delegate for Missouri, Marquis and the other Missouri voters were asked to ‘caucus’ with candidates for the executive president positions. After meeting with all candidates, the voting delegates from each state met in a closed-door session to select the new executive leadership team, a group of five candidates. At the grand awards session Tuesday evening, several faces from Missouri were awarded the ultimate DECA honor, top competitors internationally. At the end of the session the newly elected officer team was announced and the gavel was passed to the new president, a Johnson and Wales student of Rhode Island. The Collegiate International Career Development Conference will be held in Anaheim in 2017.
President Nichole Marquis states, ” While we may have not performed as well as we would have liked to at the conference, the overall learning experience we had trumps the first place trophy. As I look back on this year, I realize how far the organization has already come and have great excitement for DECA at Jewell in the future. Alex and I have set some distinctive goals for next year and plan to be back at the next International Career Development Conference accompanied by several other Jewell students sharing the educational enhancement and bringing home some international awards.”