Since 1971, SAU PBL has earned 320 national awards and 1,230 state awards, according to Dr. Gerald Plumlee, who has headed up the group since 1999. He added that 54 SAU PBL students have served in 62 state officer positions and SAU has had five national officers. Students have also gotten to experience a lot of great U.S. cities, such as Anaheim, Orlando, Nashville, and Chicago.
“One of the reasons we are so successful is faculty nominate students who excel in the respective study areas. Honestly, that’s why we’ve had so many accounting, economics, and statistics awards. Faculty nominate top students in those areas, plus other students who are interested and want to compete also join in,” said Plumlee.
This year’s National Leadership Conference was in Atlanta, Georgia, and attracted more than 1,700 of the best and brightest business students from across America. Students attended sessions and heard keynote speakers, and attended leadership development workshops, and national officer elections. They also got to meet and network with other member students and business professionals from across the country. SAU PBL also returned home with bragging rights and some with cash prizes. For the second year in a row, an SAU team of three won first place in the nation in Forensic Accounting and earned $700. SAU students also earned a second place finish in Accounting for Professionals; third place in Marketing Analysis and Decision Making as well as in Desktop Publishing; seventh place in Statistical Analysis; and eighth place in Accounting Analysis and Decision Making.
Austin Taylor has competed nationally for SAU’s PBL three years in a row. He said that being a part of the first-place Forensic Accounting team at last year’s inaugural competition in that category has garnered attention from multiple employers in interviews.
“These (PBL) conferences are important because they not only build up SAU students but they give us a chance to put SAU on the map every summer, reminding the professional world that SAU consistently prepares and sends forth some of the brightest students in the world,” said Taylor.
Plumlee said that an endowment provides around $2,500 for the trip to nationals each year, which does not cover the overall expense. Plumlee and his co-advisors, Traci Hughes and Sheryl Edwards, budget between $700-$1,000 per student for travel expenses; this year’s Atlanta trip totaled around $12,000. To help fund opportunities for more students to have this experience, Plumlee appreciates help from the SAU Foundation and the Rankin College of Business, but has also been reaching out to PBL alumni, who in return have graciously donated.
“We’ve been lucky in recent years to raise enough money so that students have only had to pay for their food while at the conference, and sometimes we’ve been able to help with that. Our conference next year is back in Anaheim and that will be more expensive because we’ll have to fly.”
Plumlee hopes to continue to build a database of alumni to provide updates and offer opportunities for involvement. Please contact Plumlee at 870-235-4303 or firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the database or for more information.
Two recent alumni who have donated for PBL trips are Drake Frisby and Vince Oliver. Frisby attended conferences in Little Rock and Anaheim. He credits his PBL experiences with helping land him lucrative employment and sees his contributions as giving all ambitious students an opportunity to gain such an edge over their peers, regardless of financial status. Oliver said that PBL gives opportunities for students to venture out of their comfort zones and open up to industry professionals, “which is what business is all about – relationships.” He hopes his donations will allow more students to represent SAU in the state and at national competitions.
After hearing PBL junior and senior students say time and again they wish they had gotten involved earlier in the college careers, Plumlee has started encouraging younger students to get involved. Several of this year’s PBL competitors have already started planning for next year’s competition, which seems to be proof they value the opportunities and experiences and also points to why alumni like Frisby and Oliver have given back to the program.
Justin Blann has competed nationally for the past two years and credits his experiences with not only helping propel his career, but also with providing the greatest mix of academic and social experiences a student could ask for. He expressed his appreciation to those who helped make it possible.
“Your donations mean so much to SAU PBL. For some of the students involved, the opportunities presented through PBL are life-altering. On behalf of SAU and PBL, I thank you,” said Blann.