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Student wins state FBLA competition; 5th at nationals

Paul Makuta, left, and Instructor in Business Paul McDermott prepare for the national competition in Nashville.

Paul Makuta, Penn State Hazleton’s Phi Beta Lamdba (FBLA) state champion, sits quietly while his two advisers talk about the award ceremony in Harrisburg.


Associate Professor of Business Administration Sherry Robinson looks like a proud parent as she starts to tell the story of his triumph that goes like this, “With a room filled with students from colleges and universities all over the state, including Pittsburgh, Bucknell and Dusquesne, the judges call the top three finishers in the business communication competition to the front of the room and Paul is one of them.”


Robinson pauses for effect and then continues, “They read the name of the third place finisher and it’s not Paul.”


Robinson pauses again to ask a rhetorical question to Makuta and Paul McDermott, business program coordinator and instructor in Business Administration, “How many times have I told this?”


Quickly she jumps back into the story, “We’re going to nationals!” she says, seeming just as exited as when it actually happened. Regardless of what would happen next Makuta clinched a spot in the national competition in Nashville, Tennessee, by finishing in the top two.


Robinson composes herself and continues, “Second place…not Paul! I was so excited I almost set the sprinklers off.”


McDermott was just as excited, saying he was ready to get on the table and jump around.


It was a celebration for Makuta and for the successful return of Phi Beta Lambda, the collegiate version of Future Business Leaders of America, to Penn State Hazleton. The organization made a comeback on campus this year being reinstated with 18 active members.


Just like in business, the club is trying to cash in on Makuta’s success. The two advisers put him on a mini PR speaking tour around the campus.


Makuta mentioned on his speaking tour that, when he first arrived at the competition, he was impressed by the level of professionalism shown by the students at there.


“(To) see students in that capacity was the best aspect of it,” Makuta said.


That was probably all Makuta was able to notice when he first arrived in Harrisburg because he was given his challenge right away. By using proper grammar and acceptable letter format, Makuta had to write a business letter describing why the mayor of his town should come to his company’s function. Makuta had three paragraphs to get the job done, but that wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part, according to Makuta, was writing the letter - with a pen and piece of paper.

The junior business major overcame the challenge and punched his ticket to nationals in Nashville in July. In the fall, he may come back to campus a national champion.


Regardless, Makuta will come back with an impressive title attached to his name, president of Penn State Hazleton’s chapter of Phi Beta Lambda. His goal, along with his advisers, is to expand the club and keep it competitive with other chapters.


Phi Beta Lambda groups earn points based on events they hold throughout the year. The club is looking for interested alumni and professionals to be involved and assist in contributing to the club’s success. Alumni and those interested are even welcome to attend the state competition where they can be guest speakers, coaches or judges.


This year, McDermott was a judge for the current business issues competition with the topic of government bailouts. The students researched the topic for a period of time and then picked out of a hat to see what side of the issue they had to support.


The benefits of joining Phi Beta Lamba extend to most students, even those who aren’t business major. Those who attended the competition were impressed with the wide range of venues, ranging from digital video production to telecom to Web site development.


There are other benefits to becoming a member of Phi Beta Lambda. Makuta first joined the club to bolster his resume and, being a good business man, got more than he bargained for... in a good way. Now he’s the club president and a state champion.


When asked what made him happier - winning the award or making his two professors and advisors happy - he simply smiled and said making them happy. After all, an award is nice but tempting one of your professors to jump onto a table and start dancing is something few students are able to accomplish.


Update: At the 2010 Phi Beta Lambda National Competition in Nashville, Tenn., Paul Makuta captured fifth place in the business commmunication event.

View the winners at: http://www.fbla-pbl.org/pbl.asp?landingpage=2010competitiveevents 


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