Often, a trip to Orlando conjures up images of theme-park fun and adventure. In April, 2008, four students from the College of Business Administration’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) organization traveled to Orlando for a very different reason: to participate in the regional SIFE competition and demonstrate their commitment to making a difference in their communities while developing the skills to become socially responsible business leaders.
From left to right: Kathleen Ade, SIFE members Farrel Liger and Obed Morales, faculty advisor Deanne Butchey, SIFE members Sharlita Millington, and Monica Kakanis
The students presented five projects: three financial literacy projects; a small business digital literacy project; a “good citizenship” campaign to educate student voters; a new business—called “Store My Dorm”—bringing storage options to dormitory residents; and a résumé-building workshop.
The financial literacy projects targeted three community groups: new immigrants unsure of the business ethics involved with buying a first home; university students needing help in corporate finance topics; and low-income inhabitants ready to complete their tax returns and open to participating in a seminar about credit responsibility.
Obed Morales, a senior business management major, presented the mortgage-related business ethics project.
“Our group taught individuals to keep their eyes open when purchasing a new home and to be aware of the differences between fixed costs and variable rates,” he said.
Competition provides a motivating learning experience.
This year marked only the second time the university’s SIFE chapter has competed in the regional competition. What’s more, according to Morales, the students had been working on their projects for only two months prior to the event, so they all felt “a bit rushed.”
“The top teams from across the country had participated in numerous other competitions, so their presentations were very well choreographed,” said SIFE faculty advisor Deanne Butchey (PhD ’05), instructor, Department of Finance and Real Estate. “Our students returned to Miami ready to share what they learned to help implement new project ideas and to refine their presentation skills.”
The university’s team came in fifth in the competition, with the judges noting, “the level of performance given by this group was remarkable, considering the short time they have been working together.”
Post competition, SIFE team members connected with the SIFE project support office for guidance in developing a project handbook.
“The handbook covers every project phase—from creating an overview statement to conducting pre- and post-project surveys, “ said Sharlita Millington, SIFE member on track to earn her degree in finance in December, 2008. “It will help our SIFE group build on this year’s momentum.”
Morales sees the SIFE chapter’s future as “very bright.”
“We’ve really gotten the ball rolling,” he said. “The Orlando competition gave us the chance to absorb what other schools have done as projects. We gained valuable experience to help us prepare for future competitions.”