SIFE wins regional competition by empowering community through business techniques
By Janel Shoun on 5/3/2011
Lipscomb University'’s business students have had energy saving, thrift shopping and pen pals on the brain this past year and they were recently awarded for it.
The Lipscomb College of Business SIFE team (Students in Free Enterprise) is a program that helps business students learn to become socially responsible business executives through coordinating nonprofit services while still in college.
The team, made up of almost 100 students, won first place in its division at the Atlanta Regional SIFE competition in April.
The SIFE team was involved in nine service projects throughout the school year but focused on three that had the most impact:
- Boosting Greenhouse Ministries’ efforts to market its nonprofit thrift store in Murfreesboro, Tenn.;
- Marketing and holding neighborhood workshops on energy saving techniques through Kilowatt Ours; and
- Coordinating a program for elementary school students to write letters to Malagasy students to help build English skills and cultural bridges.
Participating SIFE students apply business concepts to develop outreach projects to improve quality of life and standard of living for people in need. Lipscomb’s SIFE participants completed more than 1,400 service hours during the 2010-11 school year.
Students who made the winning presentation at the SIFE regional competition were: Andrew McArthur, Duncan Gross, Danielle Bethke, Maeva Ralafiarindaza, Estrella Nadrianasy, Ethan Summers and Grace Peacock.
In their division, Lipscomb’s SIFE team beat out Quincy University of Illinois, Reinhardt University of Georgia, Valdosta State University in Georgia, Alabama State University in Alabama and Jefferson State Community College in Alabama.
As a regional winner, Lipscomb’s SIFE team is eligible to compete in the national competition May 10-12 in Minneapolis, Minn. A win there would send the team on to the international competition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in October.
The three main projects presented at the competition were the Kilowatt Hours project, the team’s work with Greenhouse Ministries and the Madagascar Pen Pal project.
“At Lipscomb University our purpose in SIFE is to help people realize a better future through empowerment,” said Gross. The top three projects selected for the competition represent those that best empower people socially, economically and environmentally, he said.
They also represent the Lipscomb SIFE mission “to connect future leaders with the top leaders of our community, allowing them to work together while empowering the community to enhance the standard of living and quality of life through the positive power of business,” Gross said.
Greenhouse Ministries is a faith-based, nonprofit organization seeking to serve the poor and the homeless through various programs such as a food pantry, shoe drives, tutoring courses and the Garden Patch Thrift Store, opened in Feb. 2010.
According to the SIFE presentation, students were asked to readjust some of the store’s donation and warehouse processes to help it reach optimum efficiency and to help with marketing promotions. The team decided to reach out to the 12,000-student population at nearby Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU).
The students devised a way to quickly categorize the clothes, allowing staff to save 15 minutes per hour when it came to sorting and thus process more donations. This time savings allowed staff and SIFE team members to choose age-specific clothing for the targeted college-age audience and to create an area within the store designed for college students. The SIFE students then marketed this section of the store to MTSU through direct mail as well as posting flyers.
“With our contribution, we want to enable them to impact well over 20,000 people in the Murfreesboro and Middle Tennessee community,” said Summers.
Madagascar Pen Pal Project
Lipscomb has a special connection to Madagascar as 26 students from the island nation enrolled at Lipscomb in fall 2008.
According to the SIFE students’ presentation, only 30 percent of the 20 million or so people living in Madagascar are literate. Given this fact, the SIFE team, which includes many of the Malagasy students, decided to coordinate a pen pal project to help Malagasy children improve their English.
“I can tell you firsthand how I have been empowered by the American culture,” said Ralafiarindaza, one of the SIFE participants from Madagascar. “Seeing the vast opportunities present in the United States gives an international student the vision to succeed and the drive to make that vision a reality.”
The students selected David Lipscomb Middle School in Nashville and Ampisikina Middle School in Madagascar as their pilot schools.
Before the letters were written, an English test was administered to the students in Madagascar. The average results measured just a below average at 4.9 on a scale of 1 to 10 for all the Malagasy students tested. The team’s goal is to raise the Malagasy student scores up to eight out of 10 by the end to this pilot project.
In their competition presentation, the students noted that Tennessee currently holds the highest ranking in the United States for residential electricity consumption per capita. Energy expenses account for 20 percent of the annual income generated by low-income households compared to the eight percent of annual income the average household expends.
To combat this problem, the SIFE team joined with Jeff Barrie’s non-profit Kilowatt Ours, dedicated to reducing energy consumption in Nashville, to hold a series of neighborhood workshops on energy saving techniques in low-income communities.
The students canvassed targeted neighborhoods for two weeks prior to the event, marketing to 500 surrounding households and learning about the energy struggles of residents.
The workshops provided descriptions of simple adjustments residents could make to their homes and in their daily habits to effectively eliminate excessive energy consumption. Participants left the workshops with energy-saving kits consisting of energy efficient light bulbs, electrical outlet insulators, power strips and other household tools to aid energy efficiency.
Data collected from the Nashville Electric Service showed an average 10.4 percent decrease in kilowatt-hours used by workshop participants for the month following the workshop, said the students in their presentation. The combined savings of workshop participants for the month was 4,700 kilowatt-hours and $319 in energy expenses.