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CSUB business team to nationals-AV, Tehachapi note
  May 16, 2006
Mike Stepanovich, 661/654-2456,,
or Jaclyn Loveless, 661/654-2138,

Four students from California State University, Bakersfield will represent Bakersfield and CSUB at the national Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) competition in Kansas City, Mo., May 21-23.

The CSUB team won the recent SIFE regional competition held in Long Beach, qualifying them to compete at the national competition. The four students are:

  • Cameron Sorensen, a senior business administration major with a finance concentration, from Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • Melissa Rails, a senior business administration major with marketing management concentration, from Tehachapi.
  • Anthony Bruneau, a senior business administration major with a concentration in finance and accounting, from Lancaster.
  • Helen Morgan, who graduated in March with a bachelor of science degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting, from Bakersfield.

According to the SIFE website, SIFE is a global non-profit organization active in more than 40 countries, funded by financial contributions from corporations, entrepreneurs, foundations, government agencies and individuals. SIFE's global network consists of business executives, university students and academic leaders.

SIFE students form teams that serve their communities by developing projects that take what they are learning in their classrooms about business and use it to solve real world problems for real people. Business executives support the program through corporate donations, personal contributions and the gift of their time.

The SIFE program concentrates on five areas: entrepreneurship, market economics, success skills, financial literacy and business ethics.

The students are led by faculty advisors who challenge them to develop projects that specifically meet the unique needs of their communities. Their efforts help aspiring entrepreneurs, struggling business owners, low-income families and children experience success.

SIFE teams present the results of their community projects annually at regional, national and international competitions. Business executives judge the competitions and select the winners based on which teams they believe were most effective at educating others through their projects. SIFE national champion teams advance to the top level of competition, the SIFE World Cup.

David Olson, management and marketing professor at CSUB and the faculty advisor for CSUB's SIFE team, said more than 1,000 SIFE chapters exist at American colleges and universities. "It's no small feat to make it to the national competition," he said. "I'm very proud of the effort and the commitment that our team put in. I'm confident that they will do well at nationals."

The team conceives and carries out projects in the community during the year, then makes a presentation about it during competitions, Sorensen said. "We taught résumé skills at Stockdale High School, and the stock market game at Tehachapi," he said. "We share our knowledge and expertise learned in the business program here at CSUB."

Bruneau said the team conducted "high-level research" on their projects. For example, "We made a presentation on currency exchange so the students would see how it works in a global economy."

The team does multiple projects throughout the year, then decides which ones to present at the different competitions. "We'll present nine projects at nationals," Rails said. "We presented seven at regionals."

She said the competition parameters are strict. "You have seven minutes to set up, 24 minutes to make your presentation, and one minute to tear down." Judges are company recruiters, CEOs, presidents and vice presidents. The presentations are open to viewers.

The competitions are broken down into leagues, with six schools in each league, she said, adding that about 180 schools are expected to have teams at the national competition in Kansas City.

Bruneau said the SIFE experience has been invaluable to him. "It builds leadership skills and experience," he said. "A lot of companies look favorably on people who are involved in SIFE."

Added Rails: "Community involvement is why I joined, the leadership opportunities. It has also helped with my public-speaking skills."

Sorensen enjoys the competitive aspects of SIFE. "I'm a very competitive person," he said. "I like going into the community and teaching and helping others. I also like the opportunity to present in from of company presidents and CEOs."

The SIFE team members are all looking forward to graduating and putting their degrees to work. Bruneau already has a job offer from a local accounting firm; Rails plans to start working on an MBA in the fall; Sorensen is in medical equipment sales but is networking to see what else might be available; Morgan already has her own insurance office.

For more information about the SIFE program, please call Olson at (661) 654-2284.