PULLMAN, Wash. — The Students in Free Enterprise team at Washington State University took first place April 3 when members matched their educational outreach projects against those of other SIFE teams at the 2003 SIFE Regional Competition and Career Opportunity Fair in Bellevue. The win echoes its first place victory in 2002.

SIFE is an international student organization that encourages club members to take what they learn in classrooms and apply it to real-life situations, and to use their knowledge to better their communities through educational outreach projects. The projects presented by the five-member WSU SIFE team covered large international projects, five local projects and assistance to three area businesses.

The presentation team includes Matt Baker, a senior in entrepreneurship from Whidbey Island; Erin Palmer, a senior in entrepreneurship from Lake Forest, Calif.; Jason Pringle, a senior in management information systems and entrepreneurship from Tacoma; and Nick Steele, a senior in international business and marketing from Snohomish and Orlando, Fla. While they ran through a 24-minute description of the year’s SIFE accomplishments, team member Allen Smolinski, a senior in MIS and E-Commerce from Sultan, ran behind the presenters a specially-created, synched video from his computer.

“The competition was absolutely phenomenal,” Pringle said. “I think that when learning becomes fun, the focus shifts from the learning aspects to the overall experience. And, strangely enough, when the experience becomes the focus instead of the learning, it is twice as valuable.”

One of the experiences summarized during the competition was their Ghana Book Drive, which collected 33 boxes of 1,200 books to send to a priest in the Republic of Ghana for his school. Another was a collaborative case analysis project with 10 Japanese students. The SIFE students also described the “Free Hugs” project that promoted goodwill in various ways on campus during the anniversary commemoration of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The “Crush the Cup” project raised consumer awareness of area coffee houses that give discounts to customers who bring in their own cups.

Teams were judged on the effectiveness of their projects during a timed presentation and evaluated on creativity and innovation, results of education programs, success in utilizing resources and documentation of activities. WSU SIFE students also met with dozens of corporate representatives from the Bellevue and Seattle business community to discuss job opportunities.

The WSU SIFE team and other regional champions named at 22 competitions held around the country will present their projects at the 2003 SIFE USA National Exposition, hosted by the Kansas City Business Community, May 11-13 in Missouri. The national champion in the four-year division will travel to Frankfurt, Germany, to compete at SIFE World Cup 2003, Oct. 12-14.

Jerman Rose, adviser for the SIFE team, was named a Sam M. Walton Free Enterprise Fellow in recognition of his leadership and support of the program.

“All of the faculty who worked with these talented and dedicated students are proud of what they have accomplished,” Rose said. “The students learned a lot, but more importantly made a significant contribution to the lives of others.”

SIFE was founded in 1975 and is active on more than 1,400 college and university campuses in 33 countries. The non-profit organization works in partnership with business and higher education to provide students the opportunity to make a difference and to develop leadership, teamwork and communication skills through learning, practicing and teaching the principles of free enterprise. The SIFE group at WSU is 3-years-old.