La Sierra SIFE lands among top eight in nation

Members of La Sierra's SIFE team arrive in Minneapolis.
Members of La Sierra's SIFE team arrive in Minneapolis.

May 14, 2010
By Darla Martin Tucker

With professionalism and poise the La Sierra University Students In Free Enterprise team delivered topnotch presentations during national competitions this week, ultimately placing among the top teams in the country.

After an early morning flight, the 27-member team landed in Minneapolis Tuesday, tired but excited to compete in the SIFE National Exposition at the Minneapolis Convention Center. After winning the opening round in League 4, the group landed among the top 20 teams in the semifinals from an original field of 169 at the event. During semifinal presentations in League 2, the team gave its best performance with a perfect presentation and solid answers to judges’ questions.

In the end, they placed among the top eight SIFE teams in the nation as a first runner up in League 2. The U.S. championship went to Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. While La Sierra’s team didn’t take home the hoped-for national trophy, the students expressed satisfaction with their performance and gratitude for the affirming, horizon-widening experience of participating in La Sierra SIFE and competing in a national event.

It was Jose Moreno’s first time experiencing SIFE nationals. “It was just amazing,” said the junior accounting major and SIFE team member. “It was an experience I couldn’t find anywhere else. …These guys do it because they really want to be the difference.”

“For me it was a life-changing experience,” said junior accounting major Jenny Orrala. Because of her participation in SIFE, the 21-year-old has learned to work on a team, to apply the lessons learned in classrooms, and most of all, to carry out service projects not for the potential of awards, but for the good of others, Orrala said. “It touches my heart being in SIFE.”

SIFE’s team projects impact hundreds of people locally, nationally and internationally. This year’s ventures include the Colombia project, the university’s largest program ever in which SIFE team members, through a contract with the Colombian government and key partnerships, are teaching 100 displaced Colombian families how to start their own businesses. For this project, the team wrote and produced curriculum booklets and DVDs and traveled to Colombia to launch the program. Based on pilot project outcomes, the Colombian government may implement the SIFE curriculum nationwide.

SIFE presentation team members Amanda Oberg and Alex Schmidt 'high-five' before semifinals at SIFE nationals in Minneapolis.
SIFE presentation team members Amanda Oberg and Alex Schmidt 'high-five' before semifinals at SIFE nationals in Minneapolis.

Other key SIFE projects this year include the Green Machine in which the team purchased, renovated, painted and decorated a 1994 shuttle bus, converting it into a mobile learning lab. Through building junkyard forts, playing life-sized board games and other activities, the SIFE team taught 2,586 k-8 students lessons about the environment.

For its financial literacy project, the team this year produced a DVD and reference guide for engaged and newlywed couples that addresses in six lessons the important financial issues couples need to understand. The team sent the DVD and reference guide to 15 Seventh-day Adventist universities in the United States and Canada and to 10 Adventist churches in California for assessment and feedback.

The team made some adjustments based on the evaluations and re-filmed the DVD and re-designed the guide. They distributed the updated package to 250 counselors and marriage/family therapists, 129 churches, 30 couples and 22 schools. The DVD package is currently being tested in Riverside County, Calif. for distribution to couples applying for marriage licenses.

“It’s been a great year for us,” said School of Business Dean John Thomas during a team post-competition dinner on May 13 at Buca de Peppe Italian restaurant in Minneapolis. “We’ve had a wonderful year. You guys did a superb job. We had the best presentation team. …We have the best students in the world. I really believe that. We’re so proud of you.”

Thomas initiated the La Sierra SIFE team in 1991. The team maintains its status as the winner of more national titles than any team in the world with six U.S. trophies, including two that propelled La Sierra SIFE to win two World Cups.

For Andrea Mateus, participation in SIFE brings the world that much closer because the team is comprised of individuals from many parts of the globe. “It’s been such a good experience. …Working together makes us grow in a personal way,” said graduate business student. She is Mexican and from Colombia. Mateus traveled with three other team members last month to help launch the first class of the Colombian project, teaching poverty-stricken Colombians in Bogota how to start their own businesses. Hearing the Colombians’ stories often brought tears to Mateus’s eyes, she said.

It is this sort of outside-the-box thinking and real world experience that compelled team member Alex Schmidt to join La Sierra SIFE. He was part of SIFE’s five-member presentation team delivering a 24-minute, multi-media summary of the team’s projects to corporate leaders who served as judges during national competitions.

“SIFE provides you with everything you need to actually learn the most important things a college student should learn,” like how to be successful, how to work hard, said Schmidt who is from Brazil. He is a junior political economy and marketing major and is considering earning master and doctoral degrees in the future. “Since we have to learn what we’re going to teach to other people, we end up learning much more than we would in class,” he said.

Following is a list of La Sierra University SIFE team members who traveled to national competitions in Minneapolis.

SIFE presentation team:
Ryan Foss, Amy Lee, Brian Kaatz, Amanda Oberg, Alex Schmidt.

SIFE technical and support team:
Yorlenis Aguirre, Lizzie Arouca, Marissa Channer, Helder Costa, Sofia Do Nascimento, Nicholas Feldkamp, Orlando Garcia, Genesis Godoy, Zachary Golay, Paula Hernandez, Ricky Kim, Erin Long, Andrea Mateus, Jose Moreno, Jennifer Orrala, Vittorio Pla,  Rohaib Rehman, Amanda Shultz, Cesar Tinoco, Leander Tomazeli, Ethan Weber,
Courtney Yamanishi.

Click here to view more pictures from this trip.


PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)


  • Last update on  May 21, 2010