This spring, a group of business- and finance-minded students put in motion a plan to build their business acumen while increasing connections with and having a positive impact on the community. With Assistant Professor of Economics Warren Hamilton as their faculty adviser, the students organized a Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team on campus. SIFE teams partner with community organizations and develop outreach projects aimed at improving the quality of life of people in need. They then compete in a series of regional and national competitions, presenting their projects and being judged by business leaders on the results.
“It is easy to see how this organization is a great addition to the spirit of HWS community and how it will parallel various initiatives of both Career Services and the Centennial Center for Leadership,” says Hamilton. “The HWS SIFE Team will work closely with these two very important departments on campus as well as with the Geneva and surrounding communities.”
SIFE is an international, non-profit organization with 1,500 student teams operating on campuses in 39 countries. Internationally, SIFE students provide more than 4 million volunteer hours annually.
Lisa Nelson’12, vice president of project management, explains she jumped at the chance to “help start a team that works towards a greater good for the Geneva community.” Nelson is an economics and Latin American studies double major with a Spanish minor. She approached Hamilton with an interest in organizing an HWS student group.
Team organizers hope to begin a project at the Boys and Girls Club in coordination with the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning and other campus organizations. Their efforts will be aimed at helping students increase their academic standing and future through homework programs and, possibly, the creation of a business club at Geneva High School.
“Our goal is to help HWS students further their presentation skills and form projects that are not just economically resourceful, but include the unique aspect of a liberal arts background that caters to the individual on many levels other than the economy,” explains Angela McKinney ’12, one of the team’s organizers. McKinney is a double major in economics and political science.
A number of interested students traveled to New York City in April and observed a SIFE competition and learned firsthand how successful teams organized and began competing. Since SIFE is an international organization, the HWS team is actively pursuing outside funding for projects, trips and future competitions.
“The SIFE team is a great way of gaining networking partners and academic scholarships. Once a member of SIFE, students have access to a large database of scholarships and internship possibilities,” McKinney explains.