SIFE Team at National Competition

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Press Release

May 30, 2012

SIFE Team at National Competition

Valdosta State University Just beats out GU!

The Graceland SIFE team finished 1st-runner up in their league in the National competition semi-finals Thursday. Valdosta State University barely beat out Graceland for a spot in the final four.

“We are disappointed, of course,” said SIFE Director Justin Akers, “but Graceland students are always gracious in defeat, and today is no exception.”

Other finalists include Flagler University, Belmont University and Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Belmont University, from Nashville, TN, won the national championship.

This means that Graceland finished in the top eight teams nationally, a tremendous achievement. “I am so very proud of this team,” said Justin. “They have worked so hard, and they represented Graceland in an exemplary way. What great students we have at GU!”

Justin added that his team is young and many of the projects are young. “This is just the beginning for this great team,” he said.

President John Sellars and first-lady Bette Sellars were on hand Thursday again to cheer on the team for their semi-final presentation – again to room packed with Gracelanders. GU’s Chief Information Officer Paul Davis was also there. Sherri and Jac Kirkpatrick joined many other alumni who are attending the competition to support Graceland.

Before the semi-final round, presenter Ethan Pitt, from Lamoni, lost his voice, according to Jeff McElroy, Associate SIFE Director. Max Hampton, also from Lamoni, and an alternate presenter, took over the spot and “…did a truly great job,” Jeff said. “It was also tremendous experience for Max.”

Jeff has been regularly providing information from the National EXPO at Bartle Hall in Kansas City. He said he has not heard judges wax so poetic about a team in his several years working with the team. “Judges in the first round, and again in the semi-finals, praised the Graceland team for their presentation, and for their work during the year.”

The SIFE World CUP, featuring champion teams from around the world, will be held in Washington, D.C. this fall from September 30 to October 2.


Graceland SIFE Team Advances to Semi-Finals

Now the competition gets really tough. Stay tuned for updates!

The Graceland University Students in Free Enterprise team won top honors in their preliminary round competition at nationals Wednesday afternoon. That means that out of 156 participating teams at this year’s National EXPO, Graceland joins an elite group of 20 semi-finalists.

The team was to present at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning and we should have word by early afternoon whether they move on to the final four competition. They are now competing in one of four leagues, against perennial favorites like Syracuse, La Sierra, Drury and Heritage Universities. Stay tuned for more information! The national champion team will be announced late Thursday afternoon.

Nearly 3,500 people are attending this year’s EXPO at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, MO. Graceland’s team presented Wednesday at 2:25 p.m. against good competitors from schools across the country. The competition gets a lot tougher now, as the top 20 SIFE teams in America square off against each other.

Dr. Steve Anders, Dean of the C.H. Sandage School of Business, said, “Every year I think, how can our team get any better, and every year, they do. This is a great achievement for Graceland University.” GU has 40 SIFE students at the EXPO this year.

About 80 GU alumni and friends gathered at a reception Tuesday night to send the 2011-2012 team into competition with a bang. It worked. Jeff McElroy, Associate SIFE Director at GU, reported that the presenters, and the entire team, were thrilled with the reception alumni and friends provided. “We were pumped up and ready for action,” he said.

Graceland President John Sellars attended the team’s Wednesday presentation and was ‘wowed’ by their poise and professionalism. “What a wonderful group of students we have representing Graceland in this important competition,” he said. “We can all be proud of these outstanding young people.”

Nearly 60,000 students participate in SIFE worldwide, in 39 countries, representing 1,600 teams. The World EXPO takes place in Washington, D.C. this fall.


SIFE Nationals 2012: Kansas City, Here We Come

While the academic year at Graceland has come to a close, Graceland SIFE members are still hard at work, preparing for the SIFE USA National Exposition competition in Kansas City, May 22-24th at the Kansas City Convention Center. Here, Graceland SIFE will compete against nearly 200 other schools, in hopes to advance to the SIFE World Cup in Washington D.C., September 3th – October 2nd.

This year is Graceland’s 12th consecutive year to advance to the Nationals level, after their success April 16th at the Regional Competition in Chicago. At Regionals, Graceland emerged as number one in their league. Our team also won three special awards: teams with more than 1,000 student-work hours on projects – Graceland students put in 5,000 hours; teams with more than 44 student members – our team this year has 60 students; teams are rated with many criteria and ranked from 0-5 overall…teams with a 4 rating or above win special awards – Graceland scored a 5.

Jeffrey McElroy, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at GU, reported quickly from Chicago that our presentation team did a good job of getting the Graceland SIFE story told. McElroy, who assists with the SIFE team, said the competition from other colleges and universities was tough this year. He said, “The outcome shows that we are a good team doing the right stuff.”

McElroy and Justin Akers, GU SIFE Director, and Director of the Sandage Center for the Study of Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, were delighted with Graceland’s showing.

“I am always proud to see our SIFE students present in front of large audiences and this year was no different,” according to Justin. “Our entire team worked hard this year and our presentation team made Graceland stand out in the crowd.”


Nationals: Presenting a Year of Helping People

At the Nationals competition, the Graceland presentation team will be challenged to recap an academic year’s worth of accomplishments to a judging panel of top executives. The panel will ultimately select the USA National Champion.

This year’s presentation team includes Brady Blankenship ‘12, Lynley Closson ‘15, Taylor Johnson ‘12, Mario Pecina ‘13, Ethan Pitt ‘14, and Matt Waite ’12. While Johnson and Waite are returning presenters, the other presentation team members are new, giving the group a mixture of experience and fresh faces.

The SIFE presentation is a collaborative effort, put together by the entire Graceland SIFE team, not just the presentation team. Graceland makes an effort to bring their entire SIFE team to the Nationals competition every year, as the event provides a career fair, where students can network with prestigious companies.

SIFE’s Local Projects: Making a Difference in Lamoni

SIFE’s presentation team will inform the judging panel of their efforts to help both local businesses, as well as businesses abroad.

SIFE’s local work has centered on helping Lamoni’s entrepreneurs and businesses. During their outreach efforts this year, the team has worked to help both individual business owners and the city’s businesses as a whole.

To start, the team compiled a digital directory of local businesses, including everything from basic contact information to menus and logos. The directory has been converted into an iPhone application and a smart phone friendly website. Putting this valuable business information into the pockets of students, Lamoni residents, and campus visitors, the Local Efforts team hopes to empower businesses to reach new customers.

The team also partnered with the City of Lamoni to host the Winter Farmer’s Market. A common misconception of farmer’s markets is that they only sell vegetables and thus only operate during warmer months. However, for the craft makers, beekeepers, musicians, artisans, and other vendors like DebbieKepple-Mamros , who operates the candy store Bonbons out of her home, their products are not seasonal.

Recognizing this problem the SIFE team and the City of Lamoni made it possible for the market to stay open during the winter months. With less than two hundred dollars invested in rental fees and advertising the vendors generated over $2,000 in gross income in about three hours. The market brought in over 200 participants, about 50 of which were Graceland students.

On the individual level, the team worked with business owner Jon Hampton ’88 and his hometown restaurant Pizza Shack. After compiling a Graceland student survey, the team discovered over half the student body hadn’t sampled the local eatery, and many were unaware of the Shack’s daily specials. The team worked to develop stronger marketing techniques, a cost analysis program, and worked to increase employee accountability. Implementing the new techniques, Jon was able to increase Pizza Shack’s profits by more than twenty percent in one week.


SIFE’s Projects Abroad: Collaborating for Zambia and The Philippines

As some member of SIFE worked just around the corner, other’s boarded airplanes bound for Southeast Asia and Africa. Last January Graceland SIFE and the university’s affiliate HealthED Connect, co-founded by Sherri ’65 and Jac Kirkpatrick ’62, traveled back to Zambia to monitor and improve past projects. In the villages of Kasompe and Chipulukusu the team continued their Income Generating Activities (IGA) and also moved their efforts to a new village, Zamtan.

In Kasompe and Chipulukusu students checked in on their IGA Bike Program. The program is based off bicycle generators, which create enough energy to power small electronics. The revenue from this project goes back to area schools to benefit local students. The team found that Chipulukusu villagers used the Bike Program’s capital to implement a student meal plan, which had increased growth and nutrition for the village’s children.

GU SIFE also made a stop in the Philippines in collaboration with Outreach International. This project was to benefit The Kapagena Federation, a cohesive group consisting of four local Philippine communities. SIFE hoped to bring an entrepreneurial spirit to Outreach’s Participatory Human Development Process (PHDP), a system designed to encourage and empower those in poverty to find their own solutions to community problems.

The team, in partnership with the local community, surmised that income during the “lean months”, a four month period when rice cannot grow or be harvested due to weather patterns, was the community’s largest struggle. To generate income during these months, land for raising hogs, pigs, and farming alternative crops is necessary. SIFE and Outreach International agreed to allocate funds to loan to the Federation for the purchase of one half hector of land, fencing, and two water pumps.


KC Bound: Ready to Compete

Graceland will open up league competition Wednesday, May 23rd at 2:20 p.m. in the Kansas City Convention Center. If you would like to attend, email Julie Breshears at and we can add your name to the Graceland list. In the opening round, Graceland will compete against seven other colleges/universities. Then at 4:30 p.m. judges will reveal the league’s winner, who will then advance to semi-finals, Thursday morning. The overall Nationals winner will compete against approximately 39 other countries for the SIFE World Cup.

There will be a reception honoring the team Tuesday, May 22nd at the Q Hotel & Spa, in Kansas City, Missouri. The SIFE team will showcase their presentation for attendees. If you would like to attend, no RSVP is needed. For more information contact Paul Davis at or 866-GU4-EVER.


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