UTPA SIFE wins regional competition in Dallas
Posted: 05/09/2006
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The University of Texas-Pan American's Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) organization was recently the only University of Texas System school and one of only four Texas universities that won overall in the Regional SIFE Competition in Dallas. The UTPA SIFE team also won an "Individual Topic Competition" in the category of Financial Literacy.

The UTPA SIFE's 29 members dedicated 5,629 hours to compete with 31 projects underscoring the importance of market economics, success skills, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and business ethics - the five areas the SIFE program concentrates on.

UTPA SIFE members pictured attending the 2006 Regional SIFE Competition in Dallas are bottom left to right Rocio Garza, Thelma Mendez, Dr. Arturo Vasquez UTPA professor and SIFE adviser, Noe Estrada, Daniela Solis, and Juan Colmenero. Top left to right are My Lan Do, Laura Leal, Felicia Sanchez, Ivan Colmenero, Omar Aliniz, Nelson Rodriguez, Iliana Hernandez, and Tresha Pepito. UTPA SIFE was one of the regional winners and will advance to the National Competition in Kansas City, Mo. May 21-23.
Three of their projects were devoted to people in high need in order to improve their overall situation. "SIFE Obesity" is a TV program aimed at educating the community about obesity's causes, consequences, remedies, and how it affects the U.S. economy; "FARMS" is a financial education campaign aimed at migrant worker children at La Joya High School; and "Operation Second Chance" is a program that teaches job search skills to juvenile teens at various jails in the area and in other states.

"Students who participate in UTPA-SIFE activities and competitions are committed and altruistic students," said Dr. Arturo Vasquez, professor in the Department of Management, Marketing and International Business and SIFE adviser. "They donate their time for the welfare of others, particularly those of high need."

Noe Estrada, a graduate business administration student from Alamo and SIFE president, said that the UTPA team has consistently been a strong competitor and is proud of its desire to improve their projects each year.

"This year we have increased the number of international projects and will soon be expanding "Operation Second Chance" to Vietnam," he said.

The Dallas Regional Competition which included 52 four and two-year universities and colleges from eight states required a written report of each competitor's educational outreach projects as well as a live verbal/audio/visual presentation. The teams are then judged on how effectively they measured and demonstrated that they created economic opportunity by helping others and how successfully the team developed and executed a strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of the team and educational programs.

Nationwide 453 teams were represented at 17 events with more than 8,000 attendees resulting in 163 regional champions. UTPA will join other regional winners at the National Competition in Kansas City, Mo. May 21-23. The national winner advances to a World Cup competition in Paris, France Sept. 11-13, 2006.

Besides Estrada, other presenters for UTPA SIFE at the regional competition were Rocio Garza, Thelma Mendez, Daniela Solis and Juan Colmenero.

UTPA SIFE worked with a small budget just under $12,000. Some sponsors helped the group monetarily while the majority provided the group in-kind services and advice. Vasquez's wish for the future is additional support to provide SIFE competitors with state-of-the-art technology equipment for their presentations.

"UTPA SIFE's content is great but its obsolete equipment has failed previously, last year not operating at all," he said, citing the need for an integrated video player with stereo for the team to continue to compete successfully.

Besides a $1,500 financial award, trophy and a trip to nationals for the regional win, SIFE members gain something even greater in their participation said Vasquez.

UTPA SIFE President Noe Estrada and Chair of the Board Rocio Garza display the team's regional and individual topic competition trophies won in Dallas April 12.
"Students participating in these community projects and school-to-school competitions around the country gain a societal sense and real-life experience unmatched in regular course experiences. If the students are able to combine good course grades with the SIFE experience, they can become hot job candidates for both companies and government agencies across the country," Vasquez said.

Garza, a senior majoring in international business and UTPA SIFE chair of the board, said involvement in SIFE has given her an opportunity to compete and travel, two things that are important to a college student and a future business leader.

In November 2005 Garza and three other SIFE members were able to go to Arizona to participate in a 36-hour financial case study competition where she said she gained valuable lifelong skills in finance, working in a team and handling time pressure. Enjoying being involved in a group that actually makes a difference by teaching others, Garza said SIFE has added to her UTPA educational experience tremendously.

"I have reinforced the knowledge from my classrooms and applied it to the real world by teaching others through our projects and developing my communication and teamwork skills," she said.

SIFE is a nonprofit organization that is present on 800 college campuses nationwide and in more than 40 countries that gives students the tools to learn the free enterprise system in a real working situation. SIFE is funded by financial contributions from corporations, entrepreneurs, foundations, government agencies and individuals and guided by faculty advisers who are named Sam M. Walton Free Enterprise Fellows in honor of the late Wal-Mart founder.

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