SIFE comes out on top in regional competition

Grady Lee Thomas
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne Students In Free Enter­prise team won the 2011 USA Regional Competition and will advance to the 2011 SIFE USA National Expo­sition, from May 10 to May 12 in Minneapolis, Minn.

Of the 27 teams that competed at the Regional Competition in Orange County, ULV reigned supreme in a field that featured some of the West Coast’s top institutions of higher learning.

“We feel good about winning the regional competition because this is an intense competition,” Issam Ghazzawi, associate professor of management and SIFE adviser, said.

“Traditionally the west has very good teams. A few of the teams we face have won nationally, as well as internationally.”

Each year, the SIFE headquarters assembles teams on college and university campuses. They recruit a faculty adviser who understands free enterprise and has the desire to inspire students.

The faculty member with this distinction is known as a Sam Walton Fellow. Ghazzawi has served five years with the ULV SIFE team and is the Univer­sity’s first Sam Walton Fellow.

“I feel good about the team going forward. We showed in Orange County that we could compete with anyone,” Ghazzawi said. “In order to do our best at Nationals, we will have to practice and improve our technology piece.”

“I think the team has worked well together and our SIFE members are among the most dedicated. SIFE is an excellent program. It has developed many of my personal skills,” junior business administration major Nawal Atoura said.

“We come from a small college, but we have a strong reputation for being a tough team; Several students, judges and Walton Fellows always compliment our team,” Ghazzawi said.

La Verne’s SIFE team is also in the finals for the Campbell’s Soup “Can Hunger” Challenge, a challenge separate from the National Exposition.

The Campbell’s Soup Challenge awards the team that collects the most pounds of canned food and presents the best long-term plan for ending hunger in their community or on a larger scale.

“I feel optimistic about nationals, especially after seeing the performances by bigger, so-called, business schools,” junior theater arts major Ralph Saldana said. “The team has a lot of potential for future years, because our freshmen are very active.”

For many years, SIFE has been a springboard for students to enter employment at many Fortune 500 companies.

Students associated with SIFE are given priority over other applicants when job searching because members are believed to have the leadership and social skills required to do well in the business world.

SIFE, an organization of approximately 700 colleges, provides students the opportunity to make a difference, while developing teamwork and communication skills through the principles of free enterprise.

Grady Lee Thomas can be reached at

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