NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Three students in Stephen F. Austin State University’s Rusche College of Business placed in competitions held during the Phi Beta Lambda National Leadership Conference at the end of June in Chicago.
Preston Pennington-Sahs, an economics senior from Frisco, earned first place in the macroeconomics category; Martarosa Velazquez of Lufkin, who graduated in May with a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing, earned seventh place in the marketing analysis and decision-making category; and Kristen Baker, a finance junior from Nacogdoches, earned 10th place in the marketing concepts category.
Based on the participants’ objective test scores and presentation, judges determined the top 10 competitors in each category, some of which had up to 30 competitors who had advanced from their state-level competitions.
“I am extremely proud of our students as they continue to impress,” said Dr. Tim Bisping, dean of the College of Business. “Time and time again, SFA’s business students perform at the highest levels on a national stage, and each new win is as exciting as the last. These PBL students deserve a very special congratulations.”
Competing for the first time at the national level, Pennington-Sahs outscored all the other participants who took the exam for the macroeconomics category. He believes his success had more to do with his preparation than beginner’s luck.
“A big part of winning my event was simply the professors here at SFA,” Pennington-Sahs said. “Had it not been for the great professors who teach the courses relevant to my event, I doubt I would have won.”
A member of SFA’s PBL chapter for a year, Pennington-Sahs still has a few more competitions ahead of him, and he thinks they’ll help him stand out when he begins his job search.
“I believe winning my competitive event could very well be the difference between getting hired at a higher-tier firm in an industry I’m interested in versus getting passed over,” he said.
After joining SFA’s PBL chapter during her sophomore year in spring 2019, Velazquez served the group as historian/reporter and vice president. She competed nationally for two years.
“My first time competing nationally was in the comfort of my bedroom over Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Velazquez said. “I was very grateful to have traveled this year to compete.”
For her marketing analysis and decision-making challenge, Velazquez was given a case study and an objective test. The case study focused on a struggling business.
“I had to come up with a plan to help revive the company,” Velazquez said. “This included identifying the business’ strengths, weaknesses and potential within its market.”
She also competed in the website design category by creating a site for a small business. When presenting the site to the judges, Velazquez had to demonstrate an understanding of promotions, sales, business ethics and business strategy implementation.
Because of challenges like these, Velazquez also thinks PBL has given her an advantage as she searches for her post-graduation job.
“I proudly display PBL on every application I fill out and make sure to mention my time in PBL during interviews,” she said. “It also allowed me to create mock social media campaigns, websites and business strategies that I display in my portfolio.”
Baker was invited to join PBL last fall after her final project for Dr. Amy Mehaffey’s marketing concepts class went viral.
“We had to create a BuzzFeed article and receive 1,000 views within a week,” Baker said. “My final project generated 60,000 views within 48 hours across 160 countries and provinces.”
During her first semester in PBL, Baker placed first in the business communication category and third in the marketing concepts category at the Texas Phi Beta Lambda State Leadership Conference.
The national business communications challenge involved a written submission and a comprehensive exam. She earned 10th place in marketing concepts due to her score on a comprehensive exam.
“I believe I placed because I had great professors for both my business communications and marketing concepts classes at SFA,” Baker said. “I also work full time in property management and was able to use my real-world career experience in marketing properties and communicating with residents in both of my PBL events.”