A Gardner-Webb University senior from Dallas won third place at the Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda national conference.
Johanna Quezada Salazar, an international business major, competed in the Business Ethics category.
Her assigned topic was whether or not it would be ethical for an employer to fire an employee over something on their social media account, and if social media should be considered free speech.
“I practiced my speech over and over just to make it sure it was at seven minutes, as well as to build confidence in myself,” Salazar noted.
Gardner-Webb was one of 26 schools that participated in the event. Salazar qualified for the national competition by placing first at the North Carolina PBL State Leadership Conference held in April in Charlotte.
She was part of the first delegation that Gardner-Webb had sent to the state event in 24 years. Also attending were Cyrus Richer, of Columbia, South Carolina, a double major in marketing and photography, who received sixth place in impromptu speaking; and advisers, Brian Cotton, instructor of healthcare management, and Dr. Angelina Smith, assistant professor, in the Godbold College of Business.
The conference took place in Chicago. This time, Salazar had to compete in a preliminary round and was the last person to present. She made her presentation standing alone in front of the three judges.
“I gave it my all,” she said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it through to the finals or not. And so, I just gave it my best”
Salazar went last again in the final round.
“I was kind of nervous knowing that they’ve already heard all these speeches from all these different students,” she said. “Are they going to think that mine was the worst or the best?
“And so I thought, ‘I did it before. I’m going to do it again,’” Salazar said. “I was going to give it my best and just prove to them that I was there for a reason.”
Salazar credits her success with the encouragement from professors and the lessons she has learned about public speaking in her classes and activities at Gardner-Webb.
“I used to be shy, an introvert, but when I joined the Student Government my freshman year, I think that really opened me up to just getting to know different people from different backgrounds from all over the state, and the country,” she said. “That’s what has helped me feel more comfortable presenting and being in front of an audience, because I had to do it regularly.”
Salazar is a first-generation student who is fluent in Spanish and English. This summer, Salazar has also been busy learning about management in an internship with Scottish Food Systems in Laurinburg. She expects to graduate in December 2022.
“I have a lot of opportunities, but I just have to pick,” she said about her next step. “Do I want to go straight to law school, or get my MBA, or just go ahead and start working first? I’m planning to take my LSAT in the fall, just to give me an idea of where I want to go from here.”
Gardner-Webb is a private, Christian higher education university, located in Boiling Springs.

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