It’s been quite a year for the members of Belmont’s Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) team. In May, they won the 2010 national championship, and this month they traveled to Anaheim, Calif., where they represented the entire United States in the SIFE World Cup and finished in third place.
“This was an experience of a lifetime,” 2010 Belmont graduate Wesley Rainer said. Rainer, with two other 2010 grads and nine current Belmont students, took part as either presenters or observers in the competition. They were one of 39 teams from around the world that participated in three rounds of competition. By the final round, only the U.S., Egypt, China and India remained.
SIFE is a non-profit organization that “works with leaders in business and higher education to mobilize university students to make a difference in their communities,” according to their website. During the past five years, Belmont students have partnered with businesses and organizations to create a number of projects over the years, like Rumba Roast free trade coffee and more recently, an environmental education children’s book series and a DVD to explain the American banking system to refugees and immigrants.
“The goal of Belmont SIFE is to create long-term relationships with our community partners to maximize impact and sustainability,” junior team member Katherine Richardson said.
Belmont presented six projects about Market Economics, Success Skills, Business Ethics, Financial Literacy, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Sustainability, and Team Sustainability.
Apart from the competition, Richardson said the teams got to attend a culture fair on their first day.
“Each team represented their own country’s culture by wearing native dress (for us, cowboy hats and cowboy boots), chanting and singing songs, and dancing,” she said. “The ongoing theme of the competition was that the world is flat because from our seats we could see Germany, Singapore, Brazil, Kenya, etc.”
“The whole experience from winning the national competition to placing third in the world has been a whirlwind and has surpassed all of our expectations,” Richardson said.
Belmont SIFE Advisor Dr. John Gonas had similar thoughts, especially when comparing Belmont to the other teams.
“[They] have a lot more history, a lot more resources, government sponsorships, corporate sponsorships,” Gonas said. “For us to represent the whole 600 U.S. teams was definitely an honor.”
Gonas attributes some of the team’s success to focusing on relationships.
“[We] always structure our projects around long term relationships and not results,” Gonas said, also noting that the SIFE students are well aware that their projects may not bear fruit until several years after they are gone. With this in mind, he said, “the results take care of themselves.”
Now that the World Cup is over, Richardson said the team is already processing the experience.
“We have already met to discuss what we learned from the competition and how we can incorporate what we learned into new or existing projects,” she said. “We do have some new, really exciting projects coming up so keep an eye out for us!”