Free Enterprise team wins regional competition

Jennie Kushner

The University’s Students in Free Enterprise team won the 2010 regional championship at the SIFE USA competition in Atlanta for the fourth consecutive year.

Five members founded the team in 2005, and currently, there are 64 members. The Free Enterprise team is a worldwide organization in 44 countries and on over 500 campuses, said David Ford, clinical professor and Sam Walton Fellow, as well as faculty adviser to the team.

The team works to seek change people’s lives through the use of programs that use the free enterprise system, Ford said.

“The SIFE team over the past year has planned a seminar for students regarding the role of market economics and its impact on individuals and businesses, spent 62 hours at Central Primary School in Tuscaloosa helping students having difficulty with reading and math, created a profile on to coordinate online loans for entrepreneurs,” he said.

They also made a series of presentations to business school students on effective budgeting skills, coordinated a recycling effort for the business school, and initiated a project aimed at teaching incoming students the importance of ethics in business, he said.

The competition process in the United States begins with a series of regional competitions. Every active SIFE member has the opportunity to participate in one of these events, where they compete to determine which achieved the most impact to improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need, Ford said. Teams must first apply and receive approval from SIFE USA, after which they can register for the regional of their choice. Within each regional, teams are divided into separate leagues based on a series of “seeding” factors and randomly assigned a specific presentation time, during which they distribute an annual report and make a live presentation to a group of executives serving as judges.

This is the first year the team has all female leaders, said President Ericka Ezell, a senior majoring management and marketing.

“This will be our fourth time going to the big show,” Ezell said. “Our main goal is to show how the University has a great SIFE team. We operate on a shoestring budget. We’ve only been existent for five years, this is a statement of what kind of students we have at the University.”

Ezell said the team’s success shows UA students have innovation and passion, and that they can take a little budget and show passion in their community.

Ford said the goal of the team is to change lives one at a time. He said the team created a closing statement for their presentation at regional that sums up the main idea of SIFE.

“We don’t measure our progress by the number of projects and publications we are featured in, we measure it by the number of lives we changed.”

SIFE has impacted its members in various aspects of their academic studies.

“There is one word that immediately comes to mind when I think of this year’s team: growth,” said junior Rachel Hester, SIFE vice president and international marketing major. “We have grown in so many ways — in sheer numbers, in hours volunteered, in projects completed and, most importantly, in quality.”

“Being involved with SIFE, it has impacted my experience at the University because it has allowed me not to just think of my major, but how to better implement it to better serve my community,” Ezell said. “It’s not only changed my whole thinking of my career path, but to reach back to my community.”