PULLMAN, Wash. — Fifteen Washington State University students brought home the 2002 Free Enterprise Regional Champion award and the $1,500 first-place prize following an April 5 competition at the Students in Free Enterprise Regional Competition and Career Opportunity Fair in Seattle.

The WSU SIFE team pitted results of its educational outreach projects conducted during the past year against those of more than 20 other teams during the event. In a 24-minute presentation, six members of the team — aided by WSU cougar mascot “Butch” — described their seminars on credit awareness, finance and taxes, and on cultural awareness and 16 business consulting projects. Teams were judged on their project’s effectiveness and evaluated on creativity and innovation, results of education programs, success in utilizing resources and documentation of activities. They also met with representatives of western Washington businesses to learn about future job opportunities.

“The competition was the highlight of my college career so far,” said team member Thu Tran, a junior from Seattle double majoring in international business and marketing. “I feel lucky to have worked with such an enthusiastic and motivating group of students and with such wonderful advisers. Our hard work to win the regional contest paid off, and I know we have a good chance to do well at nationals.”

Joanna Dreger and Joe Harris of the WSU Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the College of Business and Economics serve as SIFE advisers and accompanied the students to Seattle. The two were named Sam M. Walton Free Enterprise Fellows in recognition of their leadership and support of the program.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to be involved with such a wonderful, extraordinary group of students who are extremely motivated and determined to make a difference in their community,” said Dreger.

SIFE is an international, non-profit organization that encourages college students to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to real-life situations, and to use their knowledge to better their communities through educational outreach projects. SIFE partners with business and higher education to also provide students with opportunities to develop leadership, teamwork and communication skills through learning, practicing and teaching the principles of free enterprise. It was founded in 1975 and is active on more than 1,000 college and university campuses in 28 countries.

“Our WSU chapter of SIFE is only two years old, and we are very proud that our students have demonstrated their exceptional qualities at regional competitions both years,” said Jerman Rose, director of the center and holder of the James D. Huber Memorial Chair of Entrepreneurship. At the regional competition in 2001, WSU SIFE members earned the second runner-up title.

Representatives from the WSU SIFE team will join other champions from 20 other national competitions to present at the 2002 SIFE U.S.A. National Exposition May 12-14 in Kansas City, Mo. The national champion will travel to Amsterdam in November to compete at the 2nd Annual SIFE World Cup.