Art by Leah Bae
In January, junior International Business major Heather Chaffin started Pepperdine’s chapter of Distributive Education Clubs of America. DECA is a business organization designed to help high school and college students prepare for careers in finance, marketing, hospitality and management.
Pepperdine’s DECA chapter meets virtually every Monday at 7 p.m. PST. There are currently 17 members, and the organization is welcoming new members until March 1, 2021 and will start accepting members again next semester. While the club is business-oriented, it is open to students of all majors.
“I think everybody should join, because even if you’re not a business major, it just helps you gain a lot of confidence in your speaking ability, your persuasiveness, your creativity,” said Chaffin, president of DECA. “With everything being online, we’re hoping to provide an environment where we can grow together professionally and socially.”
DECA offers members the chance to compete at a competition each spring semester, where students can participate in either role-play or written challenges that involve analyzing case studies, creating business strategies, presenting potential business solutions to a panel of judges and more. This year’s competition will be virtual on April 17-21.
Chaffin participated in DECA for two years in high school, where she successfully competed at both national and international DECA competitions. After starting her college career, Chaffin said she decided Pepperdine students would benefit from having their own DECA chapter.
“My goal was to always eventually bring it to Pepperdine, so I feel really blessed to be able to do that this year,” Chaffin said. “I’m hoping that through DECA, a lot of our students will be able to have that confidence so that they’ll be ready in their future careers, or when they’re applying to internships and beyond.”
First-year International Studies major Raja Bella Hicks also participated in DECA in high school and felt excited to join Pepperdine’s developing chapter. Though Hicks is not particularly interested in going into the business world, she said she thinks DECA will provide her with skills to be successful in any field.
“It’s a great place to grow yourself, regardless of what you want to do in the future,” Hicks said. “I want to be a better speaker, someone that’s more involved in the community and can effectively create presentations.”
Despite Hicks’ relative newness to the Pepperdine community, Chaffin asked her to serve on the DECA Executive Board as the vice president of competition due to her past DECA experience. As the VP of competition, Hicks said she educates other members on the competition aspect of DECA, and helps them prepare to contend against other universities.
“DECA has pushed me to get to know people [and] to be a part of the Board, even as a first-year and not knowing anybody,” Hicks said. “It’s been a really good experience to get yourself out there.”
Graduate student Aidan Murphy is working toward her Masters of Business Administration at Pepperdine. Despite going to school full-time and working full-time as a business payroll tax analyst, Murphy said she wanted to join DECA to further develop her professional skills and connect to the Pepperdine community.
“A benefit of doing DECA as a graduate student is that it’s a lot of case studies and real-world application, and that’s a lot of what we do in graduate school — studying real-world problems and coming up with solutions,” Murphy said. “It’s a good way to augment what we’re already doing in class.”
Murphy serves as the vice president of community service at DECA. Service is one of the main pillars of DECA’s mission, but it is up to each individual chapter to determine how it will best serve its community. Murphy said her main goal right now is to choose a platform and create a legacy project for the organization, so that Pepperdine DECA members can give back in the future.
While she wishes DECA could meet in person for the purpose of community-building, Murphy said the organization’s virtual existence makes it more accessible for her and others who don’t live in the Malibu area. While Murphy — who lives in Orange County — has never visited the Malibu campus, the virtual format allows her to participate in both DECA and Delta Sigma Pi.
“I’ve been taking full advantage of it,” Murphy said. “I just want people to know that when you’re in college, even during this time, it’s so important to take advantage of these opportunities, because these are not going to be things that are presented to you when you graduate.”
Going forward, Chaffin, Hicks and Murphy said they want to collaborate with other on-campus organizations like Alpha Kappa Psi and Delta Sigma Pi, as well as other DECA chapters, both high school and collegiate, in California.
Hicks said her biggest goal for the organization is to get the word out about DECA to the Pepperdine community. Chaffin said the organization uses Instagram for promotion and to recruit new members.
“We really want to just make a name for ourselves and get people involved,” Hicks said. “You don’t have to know anything about DECA to join DECA — anyone can be in it — everyone can learn and start from any level. It’s nothing that you need to know how to do already.”
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