Collegiate DECA, an international business student organization, provides students with opportunities to develop leadership, entrepreneurial, innovation and teamwork skills. While the national organization has been around for over 70 years, the DePaul University chapter is relatively new.
Mary Mindak, assistant professor of accountancy, has been the faculty advisor for DECA since the DePaul chapter was formed in 2010 with only 10 students. Since then the group has grown to about 60 active participants who train for local and national competitions where they compete in different types of business simulations, cases and exams.
"Students participating in DECA gain life skills that they can apply in their careers," says Mindak. "The competition develops communications abilities, technical expertise in the students' areas of study and creative-thinking techniques — skills that will be extremely sought after in the real world."
The DePaul chapter of DECA hosts three competitions per academic year. The most recent competition, on Jan. 8, was judged by DePaul professors. Students gathered for a required multiple-choice exam in either finance or management. Then they were handed a business case to solve in accounting, business ethics, finance or sports and entertainment marketing. Students are given 30 minutes to study a case and then present their solution to the judges. At the end of the day, students with the highest test and case study scores are presented with awards.
While DECA is ideal for students in any discipline at the Driehaus College of Business, the activities and competitions are open to non-business majors, too.
DECA Competitors Learn To Think on Their Feet
Paola Guerrero, a junior in marketing, was the DECA officer who organized the January case competition event. Guerrero also participated in the sports and entertainment marketing case competition.
"With these case competitions, you have to know how to think on your feet," says Guerrero. "You don't know what the case will be about, so you can't spend hours practicing. You have to develop a good plan, present it in a way to the judges that demonstrate that you have extensive knowledge, and respond to questions you may not know the answers to. These are all things that you will be doing in the business world."
For the presentation portion of the case competition, students develop improvisation skills through business role-playing. Since most of the students are not working in the business world, they often devise titles and hand out business cards for positions and companies that they envision when planning their case presentations. They deliver the presentation as representatives of these mock companies and interact with judges as if the judges were clients.
Connecting to the Business Community
DECA offers more than just competitions. The DePaul chapter hosts workshops where students learn to develop business acumen, increase technical efficiencies and practice proper business etiquette. The student group also visits local companies to get a feel for working in the real world. This year they toured Groupon's Chicago offices. The chapter also hosts annual leadership roundtables featuring DePaul alumni from different areas of the business community. Alumni from Twitter, Centro, PwC, The Hershey Co. and 3M served on the fall panel. Students participate in fun, community service activities, too, such as volunteering at the Chicago Marathon or at youth centers.
"I love the community of DECA," says Guerrero. "You get to know each other real well and this helps you work together as a team. Knowing that everyone has a motivation to do well in the business community helps us become stronger together."
The next event for DECA students is DePaul's Midwest Collegiate Development Competition Feb. 20 in the DePaul Center, where they will compete against other university teams.
The Midwest competition is a stepping stone to the International Career Development Conference in Washington D.C. April 16-19. About a dozen DePaul students who perform well in the university and regional competitions will participate in the international competition.
"It makes me proud to watch the students on the day of the competition," says Mindak. "The students come in on their free time to take a test, and compete and present a case in front of judges. It is amazing to see their dedication and to see their professional growth throughout their time in DECA."
DECA is open to both graduate and undergraduate students in any college or major. If you are a DePaul student and interested, click here.
DECA is also looking for DePaul alumni and faculty who want to be involved in judging, panels, or workshops. If you would like to volunteer your time, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more about majoring in business at DePaul.