UNI's PSE chapter has strong showing at national competition
The speech that won University of Northern Iowa junior Hannah Haisman a first-place finish at a recent national competition was inspired by a lesson learned during a summer internship: “When the going gets tough, the tough stay joyful.”
Haisman, a communications major who will start her senior year at UNI this fall, took first place in the speakers’ competition at the national convention for Pi Sigma Epsilon, a national co-ed professional fraternity for students interested in sales and marketing.
Haisman’s win was one of several UNI’s Epsilon Theta chapter brought home, including one other first-place finish, two second-place finishes and, for the 12th consecutive year, top standing for the organization’s overall excellence award.
The fraternity moved its annual conference and competitions to an online format in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The theme for this years’ speakers’ competition was “The Stories That Made Us.”
Haisman knew just what to talk about.
Last summer during an internship at an insurance firm in Dubuque, Haisman was awestruck by a fellow intern who, despite a tremendously challenging upbringing that included stints in foster homes after her mother died, had entered college and become someone who “radiates positivity and light.”
“I didn’t realize that I was going to meet a person that would change my life forever,” Haisman said in her speech. The friendship inspired her to change her own approach to life’s obstacles.
“We are all going to be dealt different cards in our life, and there are going to be roadblocks in the way. But sometimes roadblocks aren’t put there to stop you. They’re put there to show how bad you want something.”
Haisman’s speech bested those from 33 other students around the country. “I was very shocked,” she said of the moment she learned she’d won first place. “I’m just so proud and so grateful.”
Matthew Bunker, head of UNI’s marketing department and former advisor for the club, was very pleased with the success of UNI’s chapter.
“I'm always so happy when our students compete so well against other schools. It just goes to show that UNI has top students who work hard. But what makes the UNI students truly stand out is their humility. Even though they compete well and win awards, they don't brag and they don't put themselves above others, that is truly a commendable trait.”
UNI’s club also won a first place award for their annual Hometown Heroes project - an annual softball tournament and associated social media campaign to raise money for first responders in Cedar Falls. The event raised more than $10,000, surpassing the students’ goal by $4,000.
“That project is such a community project, and it really brings the community together,” said Haisman, president of UNI’s chapter. “When you can get the community involved like that, on such a large scale and raise that amount of money, that’s pretty cool.”
Another big winner was the Bizopoly networking event, which earned second-place honors for top for-profit sales and marketing project as well as top project manager for member Tyler Hemphill, a finance major who spearheaded the event team.
“We wanted to find a way to connect students with our business partners,” Hemphill explained. “We were wanting to find a more laid back networking event.” In regular networking events, he said, people are always trying to put their best foot forward, which doesn’t always give others a genuine impression. “It feels like everyone is always on their toes.”
Hemphill along with fellow club members Grant Croat, Kelsey Delperdang and Isaac Hackman came up with Bizopoly, a Cedar-Valley-themed version of the popular board game Monopoly. The group recruited sponsors, designed and printed the game pieces, booked a venue and catering, created a website and advertised the event.
When it all came together on April 30, 2019, 50 UNI students as well as representatives from 24 area companies gathered to sit around tables, play Bizolopy and “spark organic conversation,” as Hemphill put it.
“It was the networking event to beat all networking events,” said Haisman, who attended the event.
The evening raised $6,702.47 for the club.
Bunker said PSE is a very valuable organization, both through how it is organized and the character qualities it encourages.
“Yes, it’s a sales and marketing club, but we actually pull from the whole campus,” Bunker said, explaining they see students majoring in business disciplines, but also areas such as graphic design, communications and others. The club works best if it’s multidisciplinary.”
In addition to advising UNI’s chapter for about 10 years, Bunker was active in the organization at a national level, serving as president of the national board for a time.
UNI’s commitment to PSE’s values and its work to achieve them shines through in the continued recognition with The Arno Kleimenhagen Award for Sustained Excellence. UNI’s Epsilon Theta is one of PSE’s highest achieving chapters, with this being the 12th year in a row they have received the award.
“It’s all about personal development of the student,” Bunker said. “That’s why I fell in love with the organization.” He explained projects like Hometown Heroes and Bizopoly don’t win because they raise the most money, but because of how the students handle the process and any challenges that arise.
“You could tell by the end of their project they learned a lot,” Bunker said of the students. “A lot about their project. A lot about themselves.”