Team will now represent U.S. at SIFE World Cup in October
For the first time ever, the Belmont University Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team won the national championship at the SIFE USA National Exposition, which was held this week in Minneapolis. Thursday night’s top place finish places Belmont as the No. 1 team out of nearly 600 teams nationwide and the best of the 169 teams who competed in the National Exposition. Belmont SIFE was selected to go to nationals after a fifth consecutive year winning as regional champions. With the tagline “A head for business, a heart for the world,” SIFE is an international non-profit organization that mobilizes students around the world to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills to become socially responsible business leaders.
In addition to winning the national championship, the Belmont team also won second place in the 2010 SIFE USA Topic Competition for Market Economics for its work in developing an instructional DVD and online tools aimed at teaching refugees and immigrants how to maintain banking accounts. Belmont’s SIFE team will now represent the United States at the SIFE World Cup competition, which will be held Oct. 10-12 in Los Angeles.
Dr. John Gonas, associate professor of finance and the 2008 Tennessee Professor of the Year, serves as a Sam Walton Fellow responsible for advising Belmont’s SIFE students. Instructor Cate Loes and Assistant Professor Jason Stahl also serve the team as Sam Walton Fellows. Gonas said, “I am honored and humbled to work with such creative and committed students. They continue to build long-term, sustainable community partnerships that will enable economic opportunity and personal/professional growth for years to come.”
College of Business Administration Dean Patrick Raines, who last year was named the “Most Supportive Dean of the Year” at the National Expo, added, “The SIFE National Championship is the culmination of five years of dedicated work by our Sam Walton Fellows and our talented students. This team partnered with local organizations on all of their projects and clearly showed over 100 CEO judges that they can articulate solutions to some of the toughest problems in our community. Our SIFE team won the national championship because they demonstrated that they can work in teams, think critically and articulate clear solutions to social problems.”
Belmont SIFE President Tim Harms, a senior double majoring in finance and accounting, recently received the 2010 Harold Love Outstanding Community Involvement Award, a distinction awarded annually by the State of Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Harms said, “This victory was the perfect culmination to my college experience at Belmont. SIFE has allowed me to validate my education by giving me the opportunity to take what I’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to real world social problems. SIFE has challenged me to do things I never thought possible. Because of this, I will forever be changed by Belmont’s SIFE program.”
During the 2009-10 academic year, the Belmont University SIFE team organized 11 projects on campus and in the community. They addressed issues including refugee resettlement, financial literacy, business ethics, job skills training, small business development and environmental sustainability. Belmont SIFE students spent more than 1,300 volunteer hours developing and completing their projects. In addition, the 74 SIFE team members are involved in many other organizations and represent a variety of majors across campus.
A few examples of the Belmont SIFE’s team projects are as follows:
• Created a multi-lingual video series on money and banking to help acclimate refugees to the U.S. Currently in 7 languages. 100 percent of pilot population has opened bank accounts.
• Tutored a group of 40 African American students through the 100 Kings program in Nashville – training in ACT prep, the college application process, and how to finance college. 38 students have already received acceptance letters to college.
• Provided marketing, accounting and inventory management to 147 Million Orphans, a Brentwood, Tenn. based T-shirt and apparel social enterprise which brings awareness to the orphan crisis, financial support to orphanages and funds for overseas adoptions.
• Provided computer and financial training to the women of Thistle Farms, a recovery program created to teach female recovering addicts life skills.
• Developed one-of-a-kind children’s book series and activity-based curriculum to educate youth on the benefits of environmental sustainability. Piloted the curriculum in 5 classrooms in Franklin and Nashville.
• Hosted two events focusing on ethics in the workplace, from which the team created an essay competition for high school students.
SIFE is an international non-profit active on more than 1,500 university campuses in 40 countries. SIFE Teams create economic opportunities in their communities by organizing outreach projects that focus on market economics, entrepreneurship, personal and financial success skills, sustainability and business ethics.