For Kaitlyn Smith, waiting for the judges’ decisions was far more nerve-racking than actually competing in the recent national convention for the coed business fraternity Phi Beta Lambda (PBL). At the end of the day, however, she and her fellow Illinois State University chapter members had little to worry about.

“All of our members felt well prepared,” said Smith, PBL’s vice president of external affairs. “This showed easily when the awards ceremony rolled around and nine of our members placed in the top 10 for their events at the national level.”

Highest honors went to Matt Wiechert, who earned first place in the Management Analysis and Decision Making competition. Along with Katie Cassulo, Wiechert also placed ninth in Desktop Publishing.

Ryan Kotula and Anthony Chiodo took second place in Financial Analysis and Decision Making, while Smith earned the sixth place in Financial Services. Coming in sixth in Human Resource Management were Redbirds Baylee Burklund, Gabriella Hoeflich, and Anna Marunde, and seventh place in Impromptu Speaking went to Brian Garcia.

In order to qualify to compete at the national level, students had to place in the top three in their event during the state conference in April.

“We always do really well at state,” said Cassulo, PBL’s president. Twenty Redbirds qualified and 11 made the trip to nationals, which took place in Baltimore from June 23–26.

“The conferences are not only enjoyable but also truly developmental experiences for the students. And for our students to have performed at such a high level speaks to the quality and commitment of the members of our PBL chapter.”–Rick Ringer

“Both the State and National Leadership Conferences are remarkable experiences for students,” said Rick Ringer, professor and director of the Organizational Leadership Institute. “The conferences are not only enjoyable but also truly developmental experiences for the students. And for our students to have performed at such a high level speaks to the quality and commitment of the members of our PBL chapter.”

“It definitely shows they’re learning from their classes and can apply what they know in a real-world situation,” Cassulo said.

In addition to vying for awards in their respective fields, the conference attendees went to workshops, interacted with their PBL peers from across the country, and visited Washington, D.C., for a bit of sightseeing.

Phi Beta Lambda is open to students of all majors and currently has about 50 members. The chapter is part of the college division of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). Throughout the year, the group hosts a variety of professional events, such as public speaking opportunities and mock interviews. Later this academic year, the Illinois State chapter plans to co-sponsor a blood drive, as well as host a panel discussion on blockchain technology.

The students spoke highly of the experience of being a member of the organization.

“One take away I have from Phi Beta Lambda is to get out of your comfort zone,” Smith said. “I have always been a rather introverted person. PBL pushes me out of my comfort zone and challenges me to meet new people, improve upon my public speaking, as well as gain the skills I need to be successful in the workplace.”

“Definitely Phi Beta Lambda has given me a lot of leadership opportunities,” Cassulo said, before crediting her involvement with the organization with helping her to get two internship positions. “It’s helped me with public speaking. I feel more comfortable and competent.”

The group seeks to foster a family atmosphere, Cassulo said. She then described how after arriving at Illinois State as a transfer student she found a sense of community among her peers in PBL.

“That’s who has been there for me,” she said.

Smith agreed: “I joined Phi Beta Lambda my freshman year, and I couldn’t have been more grateful for that decision. As a freshman, it can be intimidating being in such a new environment and not knowing many people. When I joined PBL, everyone was extremely welcoming, and I can truly say that I have found some of my best friends in this organization. They made the adjustment from high school to college seem effortless. Not only is this a great group of people to be involved with, but I find myself continuously improving my professional development skills. With such a large amount of exposure to different individuals and businesses, it is hard not to grow as a professional.”