September 8, 2008
For Oklahoma Baptist University's Students in Free Enterprise team, a new school year brings new opportunities for business students to serve the community and their campus through business projects and initiatives.
Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) is an international organization that aims to develop the business and management skills of university students to help them become socially responsible leaders. OBU's student-managed SIFE chapter works to create opportunities for business students to refine these skills and put them into practice through seminars and tax assistance programs.
"SIFE projects give OBU students the opportunity to use their business skills to help others in the community," said Dr. Craig Walker, OBU's Wheeler Associate Professor of Economics. "Various SIFE projects have involved local elementary and high schools, low-income Shawnee households, OBU students and others. This opportunity to interact with a wide variety of people helps the SIFE students gain experience working with a diverse audience. SIFE projects teach the students that their business skills can be used to create opportunities to help others succeed."
Entering their sixth year this fall, OBU's SIFE chapter continues to promote five ideals: market economics, success skills, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and business ethics. To reach these ideals, the team promotes internship opportunities, hosts seminars highlighting job skills and reaches out to the community through financial projects and seminars.
"We help with VITA, which is a volunteer income tax service that occurs in other states as well," said Megan Warren, a senior SIFE member from Shawnee, Okla. "We volunteer our time by filing people's taxes for free. We also work with the Shawnee Housing Authority and help them present Power Points that touch on different subjects such as how to save your money, how to write checks and how to build credit. All of our projects are business oriented and are intended to better serve the community."
When planning projects for OBU and the Shawnee community, the SIFE team aims to reach a variety of audiences. Through VITA and the Shawnee Housing Authority the business students direct their efforts towards working adults, but the team also focuses on a younger audience through Cash for Kids.
"This year we are also going to work with local elementary schools," said Peter Wilson, a senior SIFE member from Bethany, Okla. "We are going to talk to them about saving their money. We actually teamed up with a local bank that is going to give the students little plastic piggy banks. We are going to give them all 50 cents and explain, ‘You can buy a Coke for this much, or this is how much you would have after two weeks of saving.' We're going to then send home pamphlets that will also help parents become more informed about how to open a bank account and include saving tips for them, too."
The SIFE team also provides business leadership and management opportunities for their peers. Through SIFE-sponsored seminars, students receive information about necessary job skills and business attire, and they gain exposure with local and national business leaders and owners.
"We put on seminars about business for success," Wilson said. "We talk about the proper way to dress, how to be prepared for interviews and other business skills. We bring in business owners and leaders to address OBU students."
Beyond the experiences the OBU students receive through the community projects and seminars, the SIFE team also gains business exposure at the national level through competition with other university SIFE teams, job fairs, and internship opportunities with Fortune 500 companies.
"The opportunity to present the team's project at SIFE competitions gives the students valuable experience," Walker said. "The students must prepare and make a presentation to business professionals that is concise, informative and of high quality. Doing this requires them to develop skills that will serve them well in their careers in business or elsewhere."
Warren and Wilson appreciate the chance they have to refine their own business skills through SIFE by serving on management teams, helping with marketing campaigns and working in leadership positions. Warren finds the skills gained through SIFE are valuable for students of all majors.
"No matter what your major or your job, you are always going to deal with the business world," Warren said. "You will always need to save or earn money, build credit, make payments, etc. SIFE wants to help the community make better investment decisions and help people earn and save as much as they can."
The OBU SIFE chapter is available to business students from each class. Through SIFE, students such as Wilson have taken part in internships with Fortune 500 companies and apply their SIFE experiences to their comprehensive academic experience throughout the year.