SANFORD - College and university students descended on Southern California in late June to compete at a national leadership conference organized by Phi Beta Lambda, the college organization associated with Future Business Leaders of America.
They came from all over the country, about 1,800 in all, representing academic institutions like Arizona State University. The University of Virginia. And Central Carolina Community College.
When final results were posted, a dozen CCCC students finished among the nation's top 10 in their events. And two of them, Matthew Rogers and Nicholas Kannarr, teamed up to earn second in Computer Animation, a competition where students created a one-minute, animated video discussing the importance of business ethics.
The stellar finish by CCCC's animation team -- and whole college squad, for that matter -- might have raised some eyebrows among casual observers used to seeing big-name schools on stage during awards ceremonies like these. But for anyone familiar with Phi Beta Lambda, it was no surprise at all.
As it turns out, CCCC has the nation's sixth largest chapter, with 140 registered members during the academic year that just ended.
Not to mention one of the best.
Shattering the Mold
Despite their success, snagging awards during the annual competition isn't even a high priority for the local Phi Beta Lambda chapter. From the time he arrived on campus just five years ago, faculty advisor Michael Fann had something entirely different in mind.
While most chapters nationwide were focusing almost exclusively on the annual competitions, Fann and co-advisor Diane Kannarr -- yes, she's Nicholas' mother -- wanted to use the organization to get more students engaged in college life. Their solution: Shift toward community service projects, something Phi Beta Lambda now performs eight to 10 times each year.
Some, like Movie Night on campus, bring students together and enrich collegiate life. Others are designed to build community outside the college gates and help students develop what Fann calls a successful "exit strategy" from the college.
To make that school-to-work transition even easier, Phi Beta Lambda is now starting to develop internships. The idea is to help students do well in school, acquire important knowledge and refine useful skills -- then become successful when they pass through those gates for the final time.
In many ways, that shatters the mold for how Phi Beta Lambda works.
"Yes, that's very different from a lot of chapters," Fann says about their unorthodox approach. "Don't get me wrong: Our students have been successful in competition and, for the past three years, have probably done better at nationals than any other college in the country. Competitions are a big deal for us, too.
"But it's not the most important thing we do."
Another difference: CCCC's chapter actively recruits across the entire campus. Diane Kannarr says more than half of all members have never set foot in a business class. Oddly enough, a good number are studying broadcasting, but others come from nursing and veterinary medical technology and pretty much all over the college. They're all over the map in age, too. She says the youngest members are about 18 years old, which is what you'd expect, but the older ones often hover around 60.
It's a Success
From all accounts, the plan has been an unmitigated success. While his students were locked in competition at the national conference, Fann was fielding questions from other advisors around the country, something that hasn't stopped since the team arrived back home. Recently, he received email from the University of Maryland, asking for ideas that might draw more university students into the fold.
Their success is also reflected in local membership. When Fann stepped in front of his first chapter meeting about five years ago, there were 10 students staring back, a number that swelled by six times before that first year reached its climax. It didn't take long after that for membership to hit triple digits. And now, it's pushing past 140 -- even though most don't even compete in those events that have long been Phi Beta Lambda's bread and butter.
It makes Fann and Kannarr believe CCCC is onto something. "Really, we don't care as much what they do at national level," Fann admits. "We're going to create our own model and prove that it works. And then other people will emulate what we're doing."
For more information on Central Carolina Community College, visit www.cccc.edu.
2017 Phi Beta Lambda National Competitive Event Winners from Central Carolina Community College
Second Place, Computer Animation: Nicholas Kannarr and Matthew Rogers
Fifth Place, Business Sustainability: Zachary Gordon and Cherie Kelly
Fifth Place, Human Resource Management: Dylan Hargis
10th Place, Global Analysis and Decision Making: Aaron Meredith and Matthew Rogers
10th Place, Network Design: David McAllister and Richard Morton
10th Place, Parliamentary Procedure: Dylan Hargis, Keyon Jones, Victoria Moore, Phillip Moseley and Alexis Walker
Central Carolina Community College's Phi Beta Lambda students did well at a recent national leadership conference. For more information on CCCC, visit www.cccc.edu.