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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2019 The Next Carson Coug

New WSU DECA Chapter
Helps Students Develop
Strong Communication Skills

Story by Sue McMurray • Photos by Tony Thompson

From left, back row: Alex Agee, Emma Williams, Jack Ellis, Keegan Otter, Mitchell Weholt.
Front row from left: Margaret Bader, Hayley Brown, Faith Barajas

Alex Agee

When international business and marketing major Alex Agee saw an opportunity to add value to a WSU education, she was all in. After transferring to WSU and learning the University did not have a collegiate division of DECA Inc., she decided to start one herself.

Founded in 1947, DECA is an international organization that prepares emerging student leaders and entrepreneurs to be college and career ready. It focuses on integrating classroom instruction, applied learning, connection to business, and competition. DECA is open to any major and any class level.

“One of the best things about DECA is the amazing networking opportunities,” says Agee, who participated in her high school’s DECA division. “I have met so many peers and mentors through DECA, as well as friends from so many different states—it’s really amazing to be a part of it.”

Putting Persuasion Skills to Work

Launching DECA as a WSU registered student organization was not easy, says Agee. While the process of writing the club’s constitution was an exercise in persuasive written and verbal communication, something all Carson Cougs will be proficient in after completing The Next Carson Coug curriculum, it was less difficult than finding an advisor.

“Being a transfer student at WSU made the proposal process even more difficult because I didn’t know who to contact to help me find a DECA advisor,” says Agee. The Carson Center came to her assistance. Leanne Ralstin, career advisor, connected Agee with Tony Thompson, Michelle Snyder, and Mitch Swanger, who agreed to advise the chapter.

“Listening to Alex speak so passionately about why DECA is so beneficial and necessary for Carson students as well as a valuable recruiting tool for the college was all I needed to hear,” says Thompson. “It didn’t take any more persuasion than that.”

DECA Competition Hones Public Speaking and Presentation Skills

Thompson accompanied the DECA students at a spring competition in Seattle, where they had many opportunities to work on their public speaking and effective presentation skills. Members presented in front of judges with minimal preparation time and answered questions on the spot.

By practicing these challenging skills at the competition, students learn what oral persuasive techniques work best for certain audiences, which also translates to their ability to write persuasively, says Agee.

“Creating and presenting my written business plan during the DECA competition helped grow my verbal and written skills and increase my confidence when speaking in front of an audience,” says accounting sophomore Jack Ellis.

“Through DECA I learned how to capture my thoughts in writing, verbally articulate my ideas to the competition judges, and persuade them to agree with my business and marketing plan, depending on the scenario,” says Margaret Bader, hospitality business management freshman. “I love being able to travel for a competition as it’s a good way to get to know your teammates and others outside your community.”

All members qualified to go on to the national DECA competition in Orlando, Florida, where they will further develop the communication skills necessary for successful careers.

“For the remainder of 2019, we will be attending professional development academic events, networking nights, and leadership development workshops,” says Agee. “Through these opportunities, DECA students will be prepared to stand out in the workforce after college, and that’s the goal of our chapter.”