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SIFE Team Concludes Year at National Championship

By Cindy Rayner, Office of Alumni Relations | May 25, 2011

SIFE team members during the competition.
Photo courtesy of SIFE USA

In one of its best competition performances ever, Regent University's Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team finished as a first runner-up in the first round of SIFE's National Exposition, held in Minneapolis May 10-12. The team's performance earned them a ranking within the top 40 out of 163 teams that qualified for nationals. There are 575 SIFE teams in the United States.

Regent SIFE earned its berth at nationals through a March win at the regional competition held in Charlotte, N.C. The team is comprised of several graduate and undergraduate students including: Kim Denerstein (Undergraduate Studies), Justin Taylor (Undergraduate Studies), Connie Tynes (Divinity and Government), Hannah Mathew (Undergraduate Studies), Brian James (Undergraduate Studies) and Mike Jackson (Undergraduate Studies). The audio/visual director and producer was Jesse Ferrell. Darius Wynn and Leo Wiltshire provided equipment and logistical support. The team's Sam Walton Fellows are Dr. Greg Stone, professor in the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship (GLE), Lisa Renz, a GLE doctoral student, Angel Ferrell, marketing and special projects manager in GLE, and Dr. Catherine Cutcher, assistant professor in the School of Undergraduate Studies.

Taylor, Regent SIFE's president, had this to say about his first time competing at nationals: "The national competition is a testament to how much you can truly accomplish when you combine your talents, skills and creativity with people that share the same mission of empowering others. The lasting impact our projects create for people around the world is the real prize and what we are most proud of."

SIFE teams use the positive power of free enterprise to solve problems challenging communities and nations across the world. Over the last year, Regent's team has worked on a variety of projects. They assisted Native Americans of the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association by helping them get their original land returned to build an Indian village tourist attraction and educational center. They provided tools to 150 small business owners in southeastern Virginia. And, they helped eight Nepalese women rescued from human trafficking to establish their own businesses, taught disadvantaged youth by teaching the principles of free enterprise to start their own business and raised more $12,000 to build two food banks in Niger.

In short, Regent's SIFE team identified people in need, applied business and economic principles, and improved the quality of life and standard of living for the participants in each of their projects. The National Exposition gave the team the chance to showcase this global impact.

"The organization is an opportunity that allows students to take what they're learning in the classroom and apply it in the community," explained Stone, the SIFE team's faculty sponsor. "The purpose of the competition is to give the SIFE teams a chance to come in and persuade presidents and CEOs of corporations that they did the best job going into communities and improving the lives of others. So, it becomes a center of best practices for what other teams have done."

The national organization, SIFE USA, is sponsored by many of the Fortune 500 firms who actively recruit SIFE graduates every year. At the career fair held concurrently with the exposition, students are afforded an opportunity to network, interview and receive career advice from some of the top business executives in the nation.

"A SIFE team is the most direct way a university can plug its most creative and innovative students into marketplace businesses," said Kirk Bauman, SIFE USA Director, Career Connections. "SIFE partner companies glean these 'can do' students for the positions that will take their products and services into the future."

"Being part of the competition team was a riveting experience that enhanced the training and academics that have been a huge part of my life while at Regent the past two years," said Denerstein. "The ability to observe competitors has empowered and motivated me to draw upon best practices to enhance the scope of our projects in the coming academic year."

The Regent SIFE team has come back from this year's national competition not just with a greater drive to finish stronger next year, but, more importantly, they have come back with vital tools and strategies of how they can better their team and use their skills and talents to their fullest potential.


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