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Kansas Wesleyan University

There is a team in Salina that is mentioned in the same breath as comparable teams from the universities of Texas and Wisconsin, schools that average more than 45,000 additional students in their population. It has hit the same heights as Ryerson University in Canada, a massive 44,000-student institution, and it is far better than any other school in the surrounding states. 

That team is Kansas Wesleyan’s DECA squad, which recorded outstanding results at the business-based event’s international competition, contested virtually in mid-April. Eleven of KWU’s 16 competitors advanced to the second round, eight earned top-10 finishes and Matthew Whitsitt and Karley Benson each finished third in their respective events. All told, KWU was one of 10 schools (among 300-plus competing with more than 1,000 total competitors) that had at least 10 students advance to the second round. 

“You start to hear a school mentioned frequently during results, and they wind up on your radar,” said Dr. Trish Petak, chair of the Department of Business and Accounting and DECA team coach. “Two years ago, a school from Canada was mentioned over and over and my students wondered, ‘What’s that school in Canada?’ I wanted us to get to the level where people would ask, ‘What’s that school in Kansas?’”

Whitsitt (Newton, Kan.) finished third in Managerial Accounting and Benson (Salina, Kan.), who switched events this season to Restaurant and Food Service Management, also tallied a third-place finish. 

“Placing in the top three is special, because it’s the first time anyone from KWU has done that,” said Whitsitt. “I believe it is a reflection of the investment that our advisors and professors put into students at KWU.”

“Dr. Petak suggested that I switch events this year, given my history working in food service,” said Benson. “The hands-on experience made the transition smooth, but it’s the content and skills I’ve learned at KWU that align with the objectives of DECA competition. The coursework and mentorship from the professors has given me a solid background in marketing and leadership, as well as a well-rounded base of knowledge in finance and common business practices. Our team’s success is a testament to how applicable our education is to post-graduate careers.”

Below are the top-10 finishers for KWU at DECA’s 2021 international event.

Third place: Matthew Whitsitt, Managerial Accounting

Third place: Karley Benson, Restaurant and Food Service Management

Fifth place: Taylor Lang, Human Resource Management

Seventh place: Cameron Becker and Matthew Freriks, Sports and Entertainment Marketing

Eighth place: Dillon “Buck” Harriger, Entrepreneurship: Starting a Business

Ninth place: Nathan Mercer, Restaurant and Food Service Management

Ninth place: Eli Truhe, Travel and Tourism 

DECA is an organized business competition that either presents students with case studies in their chosen event or allows students to prepare a business-related presentation. Every case study challenges the individual or team with a recent, real-world problem, and the competitors then have a limited time to develop a presentation in response.