Eager to tackle the growing challenge companies face to be both profitable and socially responsible, a group of Notre Dame students have formed a club to develop and test new business concepts.
And they have already started winning awards for their ideas.
Members from GreeND, the Entrepreneurship Society of Notre Dame, and the Student International Business Association banded together to form the inaugural Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) chapter at Notre Dame—and then proceeded to win both a Rookie of the Year award and a Regional Champion award at their very first SIFE USA Regional Competition this March.
“We were told that we were one of a select group of chapters to ever be named a regional champion in its first competition,” Michael Streit, a senior economics and political science major and current club president, says proudly.
A Mission in Action
Through the SIFE organization, leaders in business and higher education mobilize college students to develop projects that can make money and improve the quality of life and standard of living for communities in need. At the competitions, national business leaders judge students on the implementation and effectiveness of their plans.
The Notre Dame team entered six projects in the competition: Environmental Education, Invention Convention, Agribusiness Development Group, Financial Literacy Initiative, Green Fashion Show, and the Baan Kru Mookda Initiative. With these projects, the students address issues from graduation rates in local high schools to the expansion of English language instruction in rural Thailand.
“SIFE is yet another outlet on campus for our students to pursue activities consistent with the social justice mission of Notre Dame. What makes [it] unique among the various other social service options is its combination of community outreach with business principles and evaluation methods needed to document project success,” Charles Crowell, associate professor of psychology, says. He is co-adviser of the team along with Lee Svete, director of the Career Center.
Challenge and Opportunity
Faculty, career counselors, and alumni all encouraged Streit and his fellow students to participate in the SIFE challenge, he says, because it “promotes socially conscious business practices—and provides a tremendous career-boost to its members.”
SIFE competitions are prime opportunities for leading national companies to recruit students for employment, Crowell says. “The Campbell’s company, for example, recruits exclusively at SIFE competitions. Other companies will recruit only the top five to six schools and then SIFE.”
Founded in 1975, the nonprofit organization has more than 1,500 active clubs on college and university campuses in 40 countries. The winning Notre Dame team includes students from the College of Arts and Letters, Mendoza College of Business, and College of Science: seniors Alice Griesemer, Allison Hamill, and Michael Streit; juniors Cody Borgstrom, Caitlin Nichols, Eunice Ikene, Sean Kickham, Mike Redmond, and Gabby Tate; sophomores Lauren Sullivan and Zhe Yang; and freshman Joseph Ahmad.
The regional competition was one of 12 that take place in the United States. The winning teams from across the country, including Notre Dame, is eligible to advance to the 2010 SIFE USA National Exposition in Minneapolis in May 2010.