Students Show Positive Power of Business in Contest
May 11, 2010
The UT Dallas chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) is competing nationally this week after earning a championship spot in a regional competition of the college-student business organization.
The regionals, held in Dallas March 30, consisted of 48 teams divided into eight leagues. In all, 19 winning teams were selected, with each team taking home a trophy and $1,000.
SIFE is a service organization open to college students in any area of study, although the majority of team members on the UT Dallas team are enrolled in the School of Management.
As part of a national organization, SIFE takes on projects that give back to the community in a way that demonstrates the positive power of business. The projects must meet one of six criteria: financial literacy, success skills, market economics, entrepreneurship, business ethics and environmental sustainability.
For the regional contest, each team completed an annual report and gave a 30-minute presentation outlining the major projects the team had completed during the past year and showing the impact each project had on the community.
“Our next goal is to do well at nationals,” said faculty adviser Rajiv Shah, a School of Management clinical professor of organizations, strategy and international management.
The national competition will be held May 11-13 in Minneapolis. The UT Dallas team will use the same case studies but is fine-tuning its presentation. Judging will be based on projects the team has completed.
Started about five years ago, the UT Dallas chapter of SIFE has more than 80 members. The competition involved eight members, who gave presentations, and two “support” members. To qualify as a presenter, the team members had to complete training in Toastmasters International and compete for the coveted spot.
The national competition will pit them against winners from all 12 regions, with 140 teams competing. The winning team will represent the U.S. at the SIFE World Cup in October in Los Angeles, where it will compete against the national champion teams from approximately 40 other countries.
“We had the opportunity to do some quality projects,” said Paula Lipnick, a senior finance major and SIFE co-president. “That is what made the difference this year; we were able to help a large group of people, and we worked on some good causes.”
The SIFE team created a financial literacy program for Youth Village Foundation, helping incarcerated youths learn the fundamentals of using a checking account, credit cards and more. The program received such strong acclaim that SIFE was invited to implement it at other juvenile correction facilities, including Collin County Juvenile Detention Center and Cottrell House.
As another project, the SIFE team worked with New Beginning Center, a shelter for battered women, developing a Web site and creating a business plan for the shelter’s resale shop.
SIFE also created a business plan for the gift shop at the African American Museum in Dallas and conducted a massive audit for LifeNet, an organization that provides financial aid and medical services to the mentally ill and chemically dependent. In addition, they did an environmental sustainability project for Carbeion, a start-up company; worked on Campbell’s “Let’s Can Hunger” food drive and raised money for the Haiti Relief Effort.
“We were able to do meaningful, impactful projects,” said Dr. Shah, who took the reins of the team one year ago. “We’ve been able to gradually expand and take on bigger projects.”
He said that during the past year, the SIFE team had taken a new strategic direction, aiming for larger, more significant projects and teaming with partner organizations with which they could have a lasting impact.
“That’s what allowed us to win at regionals,” Lipnick said. “There are so many benefits to SIFE, not just to the organizations we support, but to the members.” She cited career opportunities, scholarships and course credits as among the program’s benefits. She said it also was helpful in creating meaningful friendships—both with other students and with members of the service organizations they assist.