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01-03-2011

Students In Free Enterprise Team Concludes Successful First Year

Team projects in engineering – such as the solar vehicle and Formula SAE racecar – have a long history at Clarkson University. However, this year a group of students in the School of Business initiated a new team and firmly established their place at the institution through a strikingly successful year. The Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) chapter included 20 undergraduates, advised by two graduate students and Organizational Studies Instructor Marc Compeau. Despite the challenges of establishing a team and accomplishing their ambitious project goals, they took first place at the regional competition, placed 33rd at the nationals and won a Rookie of the Year award.

“It’s almost unheard of for a first-year team to do so well,” said team co-founder Donald Dew. “There are so many really great teams out there.”

Donald Dew and Tara Fiacco, both MBA students, were the SIFE graduate advisers who helped establish the team and see it through its two rounds of competitions.

Through SIFE, student groups plan and implement entrepreneurial projects that help others improve their lives through free enterprise. An international organization with chapters at more than 1,000 college campuses in 20 countries, SIFE also gives students the chance to showcase their talents and accomplishments through presentations to panels of business leaders at the regional and national competitions.

The national competition was held in Kansas City. “It was a great experience,” said Dew. “There were between 20 and 30 judges in each room – all business leaders who judged the teams on the design of their projects, how well the goals were accomplished, and the quality of the presentation. Everyone was nervous, but our presentation couldn’t have gone better.”

The SIFE team worked on seven projects, including educating middle school students at a Canadian school in entrepreneurship, assisting a disabled individual with establishing a woodworking business, and creating an e-commerce site to sell handmade craft products from Zimbabwe. All of the projects were designed to utilize the experience and talents of the SIFE team members, and to meet the criteria for national competition.

The Zimbabwe project was dubbed “Project Dot-Kwaan,” in reference to the term kwaan – a strategy to promote empowerment and well-being. This international project involved Clarkson students who came from four continents and spoke over a dozen languages. Tawanda Chatikobo, a Clarkson student and Zimbabwean national, visited the country during the break between semesters, made contacts at Sunungukai village to secure sources for handcrafted items and worked to establish a SIFE chapter at Zimbabwe’s National University of Science and Technology.

Once the e-business is established, which is expected to be in Fall 2001, villagers in Sunungukai will be responsible for product procurement and bulk shipments to the U.S., where products will be inventoried and made available for sale on-line. Net proceeds will be returned to Sunungukai to improve the residents’ quality of life. The SIFE team hopes to generate enough profit through the sale of crafts to pay for improvements to the village’s agricultural infrastructure; blueprints for improvements have existed for years, but have never been used due to a lack of funds. For more information on the project’s progress, watch for updates on the team’s Web site at http://www.clarkson.edu/orgs/sife.

The students who traveled to Kansas City to represent the team were Donald Dew (MBA) ‘01, Tara Fiacco (MBA) ‘01, Tawanda Chatikobo ‘03, Erin Soluri ‘03, Christi Mahoney ‘03, Nadeem Ansari ‘02, Charles Boland ‘03, William Ciaravino ‘03, Nathan Adelman ‘01, Kathryn Campbell ‘03, and Nicholas Begin ‘03.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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