UT Dallas freshmen made an impressive showing at the 2019 DECA International Career Development Conference in Orlando, Fla., April 13-16.
Thirty-four UT Dallas students competed, 16 placed in the top 10, and seven finished in the top three. All the first-, second- and third-place finishers were freshmen.
Among the competitors, 20 were Naveen Jindal School of Management students. Half the JSOM students placed in the top 10, and five of them finished in the top three.
Carola Del Castillo, a marketing major, and Karla Trujillo, a business administration major, landed first place in marketing communications. Mayank Nakra, a double-major in finance and economics, and Sonika Rao, a finance major, took second place in business ethics. Roshni Shah, healthcare management; Hannah Lee, biochemistry; and Emily Nguyen, biology; took third place in business research.
“It was incredible how our newest members took to the organization,” said Dheera Dammanna, president of the UT Dallas chapter of DECA, which is based in the Jindal School. “They were ready to be leaders very quickly.”
Dammanna, a senior in biology and healthcare management, had a top-10 finish at the Orlando conference, working as an individual in the Business Research category.
DECA is a business-preparation club with a major focus on improving students’ knowledge in entrepreneurism, finance, hospitality, management and marketing. According to the DECA website, its college division has more than 15,000 members on 250 campuses worldwide.
Tom Henderson, assistant dean of undergraduate programs at JSOM and advisor to the 118-member DECA chapter, said it is a part of the Jindal School’s philosophy to get students involved right away. “We respect what our students bring early on,” he said. “We offer these organizations for students to be active — not to wait around until they’re juniors to be successful. I was so proud of them.”
Dammanna, who graduated May 16, found the conference competition a rewarding end to her time as chapter president. (Sonika Rao was recently elected to succeed her as chapter president for the 2019-2020 academic year.) “The topic I had was to conduct a multigenerational evaluation of a company,” Dammanna said. “I was able to see the inner workings of a small firm in the area and had a big focus on employment-retention strategies and formulating a plan to improve that. I wrote a 15-page paper and gave a 20-minute presentation in competition.”
Dammanna, who has been accepted into JSOM’s Full-Time MBA program, believes this kind of experience will serve her well in the future. “This competition brings out your best,” she said. “I see that I can take these skills to many places — and there’s still room to improve!”
— Eric Butterman