Erskine SIFE team gains experience at national competition

Posted on July 11, 2012

From left, Brock Sherrod, Anna Thies, Graham Martin, Kevin Ussery, J.P. Duncan, Katie Busbee, Ben Dickert, Samantha Collier

The Erskine College Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) Team, named a League 3 Champion at the SIFE USA Regional Competition March 27 in Charlotte, N.C., went on to attend the national competition May 22-24 in Kansas City, Mo. Assistant Professor of Business Administration Tracy McCurry, a Sam Walton Fellow and advisor of the Erskine SIFE Team, accompanied the group.

“Originally our goal this year was to simply make it to regionals and compete,” said Samantha Collier, who served as president of SIFE for 2011-12. “We were in the midst of a rebuilding year and knew that competing is an essential experience for any SIFE team.”

Kevin Ussery, SIFE president for 2012-13, described the national competition as “much more high energy” than the regional meeting, “with more people excited about SIFE and what we were doing.” He noted that the national event “provided more opportunities for team building.”

But in order to reach the national level, the Erskine team had to pull together and perform well at the regional competition in late March. Back then, Collier recalled, the team members’ focus sharpened when they were placed in the same league as a team led by their former advisor.

“Our goal changed—we wanted to beat them,” she said. “When we qualified for nationals the entire team was ecstatic It really didn’t seem possible,” she said.

Collier and Ussery, with an eye to the future of Erskine’s SIFE team, included key members on the presentation team, seeing the national convention as a learning experience. “The team was able to watch other presentations to see what other schools were doing and how they were helping those around them,” Ussery said.

The team presented several projects representing efforts throughout the academic year, including “Here 4 You,” assisting campus organizations with event planning; “Food 4 Thought,” using basic business skills to execute a food drive; and “QEP,” developing several marketing campaigns, from which faculty selected one, to promote an initiative encouraging students to think critically, explore controversial issues, and hone their writing skills.

Seeing other schools’ projects was helpful. “We were able to benchmark against these projects to build our portfolio for next year. We were also able to talk to other students and executives and bounce ideas off of them,” Ussery said.

Erskine SIFE Team members were happy to qualify for the national competition.

As she hands the reins to her successor and completes her studies at Erskine this summer, Collier reflects on her experience at the SIFE national competition. “Overall, I would describe it as stress-filled, exasperating, exhausting, and completely worth it!”

Ussery agreed. “It was great to be with thousands of students, professors, and professionals who all want to use business to change the world and provide opportunities for those less fortunate.”

Collier is enthusiastic about SIFE activities in the coming year, though she will not be on campus to take part in the effort.

“We have a few great ideas and some expansions to our older projects as well,” she said. “We feel that as a small team, coordinating and working with other teams is the way to go. We believe that making a large impact in our community and the world is what SIFE is all about, and our goal for next year is to do just that!”

Ussery outlined a few possibilities for 2012-13.

“We are planning on reaching out to small businesses in the Due West-Abbeville area and working on projects with them to help the surrounding communities,” he said.”We are also hoping to work with the Department of Juvenile Justice and provide workshops for troubled youth.”

The SIFE USA operation, with nearly 600 active colleges and universities and more than 20,000 student participants, is organized as a division of SIFE Worldwide. SIFE’s mission is “To bring together the top leaders of today and tomorrow to create a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business.”