Diversity & Development: JWU Hosts NSO Regional Conference

On February 7, JWU hosted the 2020 NSO Northeast Regional Conference, organized by NSO leaders Sara Kephart 20, Colin DeVico 22  and Cassandra Ponce 21, as well as faculty advisors Michelle Rego, Ph.D. and Sandy Cardoza. Students spent the day exploring the theme of Diversity and Development through workshops led by SkillsUSA and FBLA members, DECA case study competitions and a panel of industry leaders.

group photo of JWU DECA students

Although the regional conference is one of NSO’s smallest gatherings of the year, it’s still a favorite for many members. “You’re able to meet other students within the region and you’re able to network with them, which is such a great luxury,” says Davis Jean-Noel ’21, president of JWU’s Providence DECA chapter. “It gives students more resources and more people to reach out to in their chapter. That’s something I really appreciate.”

The participating schools included Bryant University, Stonehill College, University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and the Community College of Rhode Island. Students competed in the following categories:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Corporate Finance
  • Entrepreneurship Operations
  • Fashion Merchandising & Marketing
  • Hotel & Lodging
  • Marketing Management (2 sections)
  • Sales Management Meeting
  • Restaurant & Food Service Management
  • Travel & Tourism
  • Business Ethics
  • Event Planning
  • Marketing Communications
  • Sports & Entertainment Marketing

Panel discussing
Before the awards were given, Cassandra Ponce ’21 moderated the Empowering a Diverse Workforce panel. Panelists included JWU alumni Michelle Saunders ’98, Chris Rosario ’10, and Pearl Farquharson ’12.


  • Michelle Saunders ’98, senior manager of learning solutions at IGT
  • Chris Rosario ’10, content director and diversity inclusion leader at IBM
  • Tuni Schartner, executive director of Venture Café Providence
  • Kevin Matta, director of client engagement & inclusion at AWE (Advancing Workplace Excellence)
  • Pearl Farquharson ’12, owner and creative director of Designed by Delsie 

The panel discussed diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, and they offered students advice on how to pursue their careers.

“I discovered myself at Johnson & Wales,” said Saunders. “You have to fall in love with yourself, and then go fall in love with the world. Try everything.”

michelle saunders talking to the crowd

After the panel, the awards for case competitions were announced. JWU DECA students had an excellent showing, earning medals in 8 different case study categories.

“This conference was one to remember,” said Maroua Ouadani ’20, who placed second with her partner in the Event Planning category. “It’s always the perfect prequel to our international DECA conference in April, which we all can’t wait for!”

The International Career Development Conference (ICDC) is DECA’s largest conference, bringing members from all over the world together to network, attend workshops and compete on the national stage. JWU DECA students will be heading to ICDC in Atlanta, Georgia on April 22. Good luck, Wildcats!

three female students with DECA medals

DECA panelists talking Alumni Pearl Farquharson '12 talking with a student