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For OPSU PBL, The Awards Must Go On

Panhandle State Communications on 05/13/2020

On January 19, 2020, Oklahoma Panhandle State University’s chapter of the business fraternity Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) celebrated its 10th anniversary since reactivating in 2010. In the ten years since, the club has earned 84 state championships, 55 2nd place finishes, and 34 3rd place finishes. OPSU PBL went on to earn their first Top 10 National award at their first NLC on June 27, 2012. Since then, the group has garnered 2 National Championships, 2 Open Event Championships, and 40 Top 10 National placements.

Most past PBL members would tell you that Nationals is the highlight of the year. Former students have been able to travel to Anaheim, CA; Chicago, IL; San Antonio, TX; and Atlanta, GA, to name a few, but to get to Nationals, students have to qualify by placing at SLC. Planning for the Spring 2020 State Leadership Conference started in December of 2019. Sixteen student members committed to attend this year’s conference, which was scheduled for March 27-28 in Oklahoma City. Students met on Monday, March 2 to discuss SLC logistics. The US had experienced its first case of Covid-19 by that meeting; however, that topic was not even discussed. Students and advisers excitedly discussed the plans for their trip later in the month.

Tests for State Leadership Conference take three basic forms: objective events-a 1-hour, 100-question multiple choice test; production events-a 1 to 2-hour series of 5-6 questions/exercises; or performance events-a role-playing individual or team experience with judges. Objective events and production events are completed on the student’s home campus prior to ever leaving for SLC. By March 13, the Friday before Spring Break, OPSU competitors had taken 36 different tests. In fact, 15 of OPSU’s 16 competitors had already taken at least one of their tests. The only tests remaining would be the performance events, which would occur at SLC. However, only a few hours after the final student completed his objective tests, OPSU, after consulting with national, state, community, and campus leaders, moved all classes to virtual instruction until April 6. Students would no longer be traveling to SLC.

Phi Beta Lambda is a national organization; it is the collegiate version of FBLA, Future Business Leaders of America. The previous listing of OPSU’s awards is made all the more impressive when it is known that past OPSU students have earned placements against their contemporaries from universities all across the US such as Texas A&M, USC, Mizzou, Rutgers, and the University of Alabama, to name just a few. Each state with a PBL chapter has a State Organization that serves as its liaison to Nationals. Oklahoma’s leadership is carried out by an organization called TRI Leadership Resources (TeamTRI), a national organization based out of Owasso, OK. This group oversees leadership of FBLA-PBL groups for Washington, California, Oregon, Missouri, Nevada, and Oklahoma.

On March 16, PBL advisers were notified by TeamTRI that SLC was being postponed and possibly switched to a virtual experience. On March 26, the official announcement was made that Oklahoma’s SLC would be virtual and would occur from 4/15-5/15. Most of OPSU competitor’s events had already been completed; however, performance events remained. Those performance events will require competitors to submit a video of their performance to an online site. Those links will then be sent to judges for placement. While this is not an ideal way to present, students at least still have the opportunity to compete. OPSU PBL has 10 students competing in 9 performance events.

University President, Dr. Tim Faltyn stated, “I am excited that this group of individuals still get to compete in their conferences. They have worked tirelessly preparing for these next few months. This time we are in is very uncertain, but I am glad that these competitive events can continue virtually.”

There can be no doubt that in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, students across the nation have experienced tremendous disappointment through the movement to online classes, the cancellation of spring athletic seasons, and the postponement or even cancellation of graduations. The “official” notification of a virtual SLC brought that disappointment home to OPSU PBL competitors as well; however, all is not lost, and TeamTRI has worked hard to make SLC an amazing experience in spite of its virtualization, and OPSU PBL is grateful. Additionally, because of the option of Virtual SLC, there can be no doubt that OPSU PBL’s streak of 8 consecutive years of placements at SLC will go on! Oklahoma’s SLC awards are scheduled to be announced on April 22 (objective and production events) at 5:00 p.m. CST and May 5 (performance events) at 6:00 p.m. Live updates will be posted on the PBL at Panhandle State Facebook page.

In the meantime, OPSU PBL advisers Kim Smith and Sara Hitch are working to keep their competitors motivated and informed of the logistics of the virtual format. Zoom sessions and multiple weekly emails are the new norm, and the competitors have made the transition seamlessly and without complaint, a true testament to their maturity and leadership.

On Friday, April 17, Nationals announced that NLC will occur within a virtual format. Further details will be distributed in the coming weeks. For OPSU PBL competitors, the format really doesn’t matter. They are ready to continue their legacy and for the awards to go on.