Simpson sweeps away the business competition

by Mark Pleiss

Sophomore Marcin Wojtczak had every right to be nervous.

He had 60 minutes to answer 100 questions over internationalbusiness, business law, computer programming and hospitalitymanagement. Undergoing the most notorious of all tests in the PhiBeta Lambda state business competition, Marcin and his colleaguesreigned supreme.

The Simpson chapter of the PBL business organization cleanedhouse early in March at Wartburg College in Waverly, placing firstor second in 10 categories – and second overall in Iowa.

“For our first year, and for being a very young team, we didvery well at the PBL state competition,” Wojtczak said.

Simpson topped Wartburg, Iowa and Upper Iowa University, whilecoming in second only to Franciscan of Clinton, which entered threetimes as many students as Simpson did.

In all, 109 students from five colleges and universities were inthe competition.

Sophomores Renee Latterell, Mihai Birsescu and Wojtczak foundedthe PBL organization at Simpson six weeks before the competition.PBL at Simpson grew quickly, and 15 active members were signed intwo weeks.

Despite their short time together, the eight Simpson studentsplaced in the top five of 90 percent the competitions they competedin.

“We were pleased to have entered 22 competitions with eightstudents,” said Mark Juffernbruch, faculty advisor for Simpson’sPBL. “We placed in the top five or better in 21 of the 22competitions. Those students who placed first or second in theirrespective competitions can go on to the national competition inDenver.”

Six students from Simpson, including all three founders, willattend the 2004 PBL National Leadership Conference to face thecountry’s top business students.

“We are very proud of our performance at the state competition,”Birsescu said. “I really hope we’ll make a good impression at thenational contest. I’m sure we’ll do well.”

PBL’s well-known high school equivalent, Future Business Leadersof America, is the oldest and largest national organization forstudents preparing for careers in business leadership. PBL alonehas more than 12,000 students nationwide. Iowa chartered the firstPBL chapter in the early 1990s.

“PBL takes a different approach to business education, whichmakes it really fun,” Wojtczak said. “They take what you learn atschool and try to transfer it into the business world.”

According to its constitution, the goal of PBL is to allowstudents to get ahead of the competition for college and futurecareer competition.

“PBL puts you into a position of leadership that you don’talways get in the classroom,” said freshman Emmanuel Mate-Kodjo, amember of PBL who attended the state competition. “It prepares youto experience different responsibilities and gives you a taste ofthe real workplace.”

In its inaugural year, Simpson’s PBL has become a nationallyrecognized group with students optimistic about the future.

“It’s a really great chance to learn about what real business isabout,” Wojtczak said. “The competitions are a big deal, andthey’re real cool.”