With enterprising business concepts that improve the quality of life for those in need, 160 student teams – including one from the University of Arizona – will join academic and business leaders from around the country in the Students In Free Enterprise USA National Competition.
The Students In Free Enterprise, known as SIFE, national competition will be held May 22-24 in Kansas City, Mo. The UA SIFE team, comprised of students from a variety of educational disciplines, won the organization's regional competition.
The program, housed in the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing, is dedicated to educate and prepare UA students of all majors for their careers by teaching them the skills necessary to succeed in the professional world through local, national and international community-outreach programs.
"SIFE functions like a club, and it's open to all disciplines at the UA to help students develop entrepreneurial skills by using business skills to make life better for people in Tucson and the world," said Marcia Klipsch, UA SIFE advisor and assistant director of the Terry J. Lundgren center.
Each semester, SIFE students identify people or communities in need and plan creative projects that apply business and economic concepts and an entrepreneurial approach to improve the standard of living for project beneficiaries. These program can last anywhere from three-months to many years.
With 13 consecutive Regional Competition titles and a final-four team at six national expositions, the UA SIFE team won the National Championship and advanced to the World Cup in 2008.
This year, the UA SIFE team competed with 334 other teams from throughout the country during the regionals to earn its spot in the national competition and will present the following four programs to the national judges:
- The Food4Thought program initiated recycling, gardening and healthy eating programs at the Wildcat School, a predominately Hispanic and Native American middle school in Tucson. The participants secured a $2,000 grant from Lowe's to execute this project, which was directed at a group of students who are at risk for diabetes and heart disease.
- The Hawk House program at Ironwood Ridge High School in Tucson is a project developed to help train DECA high school students in store management, market research, product assortment, financial planning, store operations and SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) goals. SIFE students attained a $2,000 grant for the students to purchase merchandise and reopen the defunct school store by shifting sales from food to selling imprinted school-branded novelties and clothes.
- A global project of the UA SIFE team, Rubaga Friends, looked to impact the lives of orphans in Uganda through the creation of a five-year plan to raise funds to purchase food, shelter, supplies, reliable energy and educational materials through the sale of bracelets, bags and scarfs with Rubaga branding. The team has a designated group of students dedicated to developing and selling products that have generated $5,700 in merchandise sales in order to deliver 1,600 pounds of school supplies, desks and computers to the Rubaga Community School in Kampala, Uganda.
- World Work, the final project the team will present at the national competition, entailed developing workshops to train relocated refugees in Tucson on job-seeking skills including resume building, mock interviews, technology training and by also providing professional interview clothing. They also distributed bikes, locks and helmets so that these refugees could get to work in an efficient and timely manner.
An exemplary program, the UA Credit-Wise Cats, was developed 10 years ago by the UA students of SIFE to bring financial literacy to the students on the UA campus through workshops. The workshops teach students the importance of good credit and other personal finance topics.
After eight years, the program is now self-sustainable and has expanded into high schools to provide financial literacy workshops and competitive events in the Tucson community and has expanded as a program in other universities.
This year, the UA Credit-Wise Cats partnered with the TIAA-CREF Empowering Gen Y project to reach college students, specifically freshman, many of whom find themselves completely independent for the first time. The project provides workshops for these students in order to establish the foundation necessary for good choices on subjects such as budgets, credit cards, check balances and bank statements.
UA SIFE member Kiley Dumas, the chair of the TIAA-CREF Empowering Gen Y project and UA Credit-Wise Cats program member, said the SIFE programs helped her learn a lot about personal finance: "I learned to create a budget and live within it. The program has taught me personal finance and many other credit and financial matters not taught in school."
"SIFE has been the most influential decision I could have made for myself and my career. I really enjoy the community outreach component," said marketing major Dumas, who also worked on the Hawk House program.
During the national competition, a distinguished panel of top executives will review the presentations of these teams and ultimately choose the SIFE USA National Champion. This team will then represent the U.S. at the SIFE World Cup, where it will compete against the national champion teams from approximately 38 other countries.