DECA prepares MSUM students for careers in business

DECA, formerly Distributive Education Clubs of America, is an organization that prepares high school and college student leaders for careers in marketing, hospitality, business and management. DECA has almost 250,000 members in its high school and collegiate divisions worldwide.

Junior Isabel Olson is an accounting major and MSUM DECA president. Sophomore Kobey Block collaborates with Isabel on the DECA executive team as vice president. He is majoring in finance and economics with a business emphasis. Kobey was involved in Business Professionals of America in his hometown of Detroit Lakes, Minn., which shares similarities to DECA.

Kobey and Isabel have both gone on to win the state championship, and Isabel has made it to the top ten internationally with a partner.

At the collegiate level, DECA participants compete in events and attend conferences across the nation. Recently, the team went to Orlando, Florida; Isabel has been to Baltimore, Atlanta, Texas, and Kansas City with DECA. With 25 different career categories, students expand their knowledge and confidence within their chosen field. Competitions comprise a judge providing a prompt, to which the students get 30 minutes to prepare a solution and then present to their judge.

“Competing in this environment allows you to get out of your comfort zone in a low-stakes way. If you crash and burn, only the judge knows. So, while it can sound scary, growth only happens in discomfort,” says Isabel.

MSUM’s DECA chapter has been noticeably successful in the state and international competitions, as well as having multiple DECA state and international executive officers and presidents from its ranks.

“It has been amazing to see the success of the MSUM Collegiate DECA team, not only as a team but also regarding the individuals. Many have developed from shy first members to outspoken and creative leaders and competitors,” Ralf Mehnert-Meland shares, MSUM DECA chapter advisor.

Collegiate DECA’s educational conferences take skills learned from school and apply it to real life experiences, encouraging students to grow in their personal and professional lives. Conferences are separated into three categories; engaging, leadership, and career development, and include panels, workshops, and sessions with industry professionals. Students gain unique experience and expand their personal brand.

Volunteering is an important part of the DECA mission. MSUM DECA has connected with Box of Balloons, a local organization which builds boxes containing birthday supplies and gifts for low-income families to celebrate with their kids. They are also planning to partner with Feed My Starving Children in the future.

“It’s a great way to help your community but also build your resume with volunteer opportunities,” Isabel says.


During their biweekly meetings, Isabel and Kobey present to their executive team, which includes a secretary and two co-treasurers. These meetings help establish their goals and fundraising for the 30 students involved in DECA. The students commonly fundraise at Scheels Arena –– working in concession booths for different events held.

The most beneficial skill Kobey credits DECA for is his ability to do well in an internship interview. He also says that networking and resume building are some of the biggest advantages of being involved in this organization.

“I’ve met people from Las Vegas, Tennessee, Missouri, and more, who are going to be professionals in the future,” Kobey says.

Kobey and Isabel continue to encourage participation through their organization. They previously held a mock competition to prepare new members for what they can expect out of competitions.

“Everyone practices differently, and they do what works best for them. You can get involved as you want; you get what you give,” Kobey says. Isabel and Kobey’s advice for students who may want to join DECA is to bring a friend and be open to meeting people.

“Everyone is very friendly and close,” Isabel says, “Don’t let the idea of competing keep you from trying, because it can be so good for you.”

Business Administration Degree

MSUM's business administration degree offers experiential learning that prepares students to craft their own future in the world of business.

Learn more about Business Administration

More Stories from Dragons

View All Dragon Stories