SIFE scores trip to nationals

For the 12th year in a row, the John Brown University SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) competition team was crowned Regional champion Monday, March 26.

The Regional competition took place in Rogers, Ark., with competing colleges and universities from Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. JBU SIFE is advancing to the National competition that will take place in Kansas City, Mo., May 22 to 24.

The teams were divided in three leagues, and two champions were selected from each. JBU SIFE was named champion in league number three, along with Pittsburg State University from Kansas.

The JBU SIFE speakers this year are sophomore Marcel Guadrón from Guatemala, juniors Estefania Verdin from Mexico, Katherine Jaramillo from Ecuador, and seniors Kassie Keeter and Philip Ruppert from the US.

Senior Jasmine Chavez served as vice-president of competition, while the media team was made up of seniors Analu Marin and Kate Williams, juniors Gerardo Marroquin and Caylie Foley, and sophomore Andrea Eifert.

During the competition, the students had 24 minutes to present four of the current SIFE projects to a panel of judges, mostly entrepreneurs and SIFE sponsors.

JBU SIFE director and Sam Walton Fellow, Clayton Anderson, said he was proud of his students’ accomplishment.

“[The speakers] delivered a powerful presentation to nearly 140 people,” Anderson said. “We believe our projects make a difference, but it’s nice to know that the 16 judges also agree.”

In his first year as JBU SIFE director, Anderson changed some of the strategy for the presentation. Whereas in past years SIFE advisors are involved every step of the way, Anderson gave students more freedom and less oversight.

“Zac [Freeman] and I placed a tremendous amount of responsibility on the students. But the team was very capable, I think it’s clear they rose to the challenge,” Anderson said.

Keeter said she became a SIFE speaker because she believes in SIFE’s impact and wanted to be able to tell those stories. Keeter also said the team did not make mistakes through the entire presentation, which boosted their confidence.

“After we won I was so proud and relieved that we made it through regionals,” Keeter said.

Verdin said JBU SIFE has been one of the highlights of her JBU experience. She said the speakers could still improve individually and as a team, but that they deserved the win.

“We have put a lot of effort into it and it’s amazing to see it reflected. It’s a tremendous honor but a great responsibility to do an excellent job at Nationals,” Verdin said. She said she appreciated the support from other SIFE members and friends who attended the presentation.

Andrea Morales, JBU SIFE vice-president of communications, said she was proud the efforts to maintain the quality standard of the team paid off.

“I know [JBU SIFE] has been an excellent competitor in past years, it’s something we have inherited from other generations,” Morales said. She added that her favorite part of the event was the judges’ questions and answers to the speakers, SIFE president Brandon Knight, and project leaders.

“When they were answering I could see the passion, encouragement and knowledge they have,” Morales said.

After the presentation, president Chip Pollard joined the team in celebration with pizza and gelato at Fratelli’s Pizzeria downtown.

“Winning is part of being in SIFE, but knowing we impact people’s lives in Siloam Springs and Central America is what I love the most,” Morales concluded.

Looking into Nationals, Anderson said the group would need to tighten the script and improve consistency across print and audiovisual materials.

“The official scoring sheets won’t be returned for two weeks, but the feedback we received from rogue judges, competitor teams and observers was overwhelmingly positive,” Anderson said.

The winner at Nationals will join 3,000 students from 39 countries at the SIFE World Cup in Washington D.C., September 30 to October 2.