By KRISHNA PATEL, sophomore
A sense of competition marked the lively spirit of the FBLA North Central Regional Conference. The conference took place on December 2, from first to eleventh period in the JP Stevens library. FBLA executive board members, advisors, and members alike contributed countless hours into making this event a success. “FBLA continued traditions from last year, like the Shark Tank Activity and inviting students from the Rutgers PBL to act as judges,” explained Cheryl Chang, senior and FBLA president. “Speakers from Rutgers and Stevens Institute of Technology were invited weeks in advance. We even gave out a survey to evaluate how the conference went this year so we can improve next year’s experience and other future events.” Some highlights like the Shark Tank Activity, where FBLA members marketed a product, and the guest speakers from PBL, the college level of FBLA, sought to provide members a way to further explore the realm of business.
Students dressed in formal business attire went straight to the library, where they were served bagels and muffins for breakfast. As students started to settle, special keynote speakers from Rutgers University came to present to the FBLA members. Two college students, Sahithi Talagadadeevi and Sunny Sheth who are members of the Rutgers chapter of PBL, discussed their experiences with the organization and how it helped them build a wide array of skills. The PBL members expressed how the organization has played on them and what PBL is like in college. “The keynote speakers were very informative, straightforward, and engaging,” said sophomore participant Richard Ye. “I had no idea that FBLA existed at a college level. This really made me think about my future and even maybe potentially pursuing a business-related career.”
The highlight for each member at the conference was their specific competitive event, either an individual or group assessment based on a business-related topic ranging from business communications to economics. After members select topics over a month in advance, the executive board holds practice test sessions for members as well as a Q&A session after school. Although this event consisted only of JP Stevens students who are members of FBLA, JP students are scored against students from other schools in the North-Central region. Ultimately, only 8 individuals and 5 teams per competitive event out of 32 schools advance to compete against more FBLA members at a statewide conference. Nevertheless, students who do not place at this regionals conference still have the opportunity to compete at the prestigious state conference with a state competitive event.
In the auditorium, the group played a spin-off game of the television show Shark Tank where students are divided into 6 groups and develop a presentation for a product of their choice. In the presentation, they attempt to convince a panel of judges, here consisting of the visiting PBL members Sahithi Talagadadeevi and Sunny Sheth, to invest in their product. A variety of products were presented, ranging from the One-Zzz to the Ballpoint Pen Corrector, by displaying the name and description of the product, stores that would sell the item, and the cost and the percentage of profit that would go to the investors. Ultimately, the PBL members gave their input into which item they thought was presented in the best manner and the winners of the activity. “Shark Tank captures many of the attributes that FBLA stands for,” Victoria Tan, junior and Vice President of Community Service, commented. “It’s a business-centered activity that can also be a lot of fun. When we see groups who cannot contain their laughter while brainstorming a product, that’s how we know at least we’re doing something right!”
After both groups completed the test and the Shark Tank activity, the groups headed back to the library to eat Subway sandwiches and desserts for lunch, chatting, relaxing, and celebrating the end of the testing sessions. After a while, guest speakers Brandon J. Griffin and Nicole Portner, recent graduates from the Stevens Institute of Technology, came over to discuss benefits of going into sectors of business, the resources offered by Stevens Institute of Technology, and campus life at this university. Emphasizing the importance of business in the real world, they encouraged students to not only have an interest in applying at their school but to pursue business-related careers.
As the conference came to an end, FBLA members participated in one last group activity, an icebreaker challenge, aimed toward strengthening connections among FBLA members as well as making new members feel welcome to FBLA. Students attempted to fill up a bingo board with signatures of fellow members who have fulfilled certain FBLA milestones as labeled on the board, such as “Is attending Regionals for the first time” or “Is in the Publicity/Membership Committee.” At the end, students filled out a survey, in which they were asked a few questions about how they felt about the event and what they felt should be improved, in order to make next
year’s conference even more successful. Sophomore Andrew Shen stated, “I really enjoyed regionals, especially since a lot of my friends were there. You could tell that everybody who planned it put a lot of effort in because it was really well-organized and it was a great experience.”
Even though this event was a competition, Ms. Tolba, adviser to FBLA expressed the importance of FBLA and how competitions like the Regional Conference truly help beyond high school. “FBLA participation is a powerful credential for your résumé, whether you are moving on to college or the workplace. The business community knows and respects FBLA. As an FBLA member, you will have a better understanding of how business works than the average student. You will learn skills, such as leadership and networking, and gain a self-confidence that will make you successful in the future.”