From Ecuador to Nationals: SIFE Chapter Caps Busy Year
Q: What has more than 20 feet, sponsors sneak previews of Super Bowl commercials, has passports stamped with the seal of Ecuador and recently won a regional academic competition?
A: The Webster University Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) club, which in only its second year has already advanced to national competition.
At universities around the world, SIFE clubs create community economic opportunities by organizing outreach projects that teach market economics, entrepreneurship, personal and financial success skills and business ethics. Webster's is one of 1,800 college teams in more than 40 countries.
Each year, SIFE competitions are held worldwide, drawing together thousands of students and business leaders to pay tribute to these extraordinary educational outreach projects. Projects are judged on creativity, innovation and effectiveness. Webster's club advanced to nationals this year after clinching their division at regionals. While they did not make the semifinals, the experience was rewarding nonetheless for the young team.
"The most important aspects of the Webster SIFE team are passion and leadership," says Brooklyn Seibert, the club's vice president-elect. "We are devoted to our mission of making people's lives better. We collaborate ideas and enthusiasm to accomplish goals without one person receiving all the credit," says the business administration major.
Still in its infancy at just two years old, Webster's SIFE club was established by assistant professor of business Debbie Psihountas after she came away from a SIFE conference impressed by the organization and its goals. Benjamin Akande, dean of the School of Business & Technology, encouraged Psihountas to explore SIFE based on his familiarity with SIFE from his previous affiliations with other schools. Both agreed a SIFE chapter could provide additional employment and career opportunities to Webster students and encourage more activities outside of classes.
"When students graduate, they are one of thousands graduating at the same time with the same degree," says Psihountas. "For an employer sorting through thousands of resumes, it is challenging to differentiate one from another. SIFE is a differentiator because you gain skills in leadership, project management, communication, and other areas. And it is work that benefits communities, which makes it all worthwhile."
"This year's national exposition and competition was bigger and better than ever," says Psihountas. "Dozens of big-league employers were there solely to recruit SIFE students, which gives our graduates and summer interns a big advantage in entering the job market."
Highlighting Webster's SIFE club's activities this past year was a summer trip to Ecuador to accomplish several economic agendas. Projects included helping disadvantaged women with their small businesses, creating a financial institution that gives loans to struggling small business owners, and conducting seminars on credit and customer service training.
The club also sponsored an event at the St. Louis campus where students were invited to preview some of Anheuser-Busch's Super Bowl commercials. A corporate sponsor for SIFE, Anheuser-Busch previews its commercials to focus groups before the game as part of its audience research.
Tim Murphy, a Webster alumnus and marketing executive at Anheuser-Busch, led the presentation about effective brand strategy, image and roles, target audiences, and commercial concept to finished product.
The club has also sponsored speakers and events such as:
"You learn to work and compromise with groups of people," says SIFE member Maria Levin, a freshman from Belarus majoring in international business. "I was involved with a project called 'Adventures in Entrepreneurship.' We focused on educating eighth-graders starting their own businesses. We introduced them to ethics, financial planning skills, free marketing skills and entrepreneurship."SIFE is open to all students. The club is also offering BUSN 3100 Issues in Business-SIFE this fall as a one-credit-hour elective option. Contact Debbie Psihountas at 314-968-7553 or email@example.com for more information.