Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE)

SIFE group

Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) is a volunteer-based organisation formed in the USA in 1975. Founded on the principle that students should use the knowledge gained at university to teach others, SIFE acts on the adage ‘tell me and I will forget, show me and I might remember, involve me and I will learn.’  Since 1975 SIFE has gone global. Today teams of business students from every Australian university compete in a national competition by presenting student-designed outreach projects. The winners go on to compete at international level. This is a prestigious and highly competitive contest.

Led by Jeremy Seward, Associate Head of School at Mildura, the Regional School of Business has a track record of national and international success in SIFE. In 2006 Mildura students won the Entrepreneurial Award, and their leader, Stephanie Schneider, was elected SIFE student of the year out of a field of 250 students, winning a trip to the SIFE World Cup in Paris. Amy Nicol is another success story becoming SIFE President in Australia the following year. Now employed as Workforce Partnership Coordinator for the Northern Mallee Primary Care Partnership, she says “My involvement pushed me to grow and challenge myself and by doing that I gained experience in leading projects, public speaking, and networking, and I gained a passion for leading and a vision for my future.”

In 2009 Kirsty Duncan, a Mildura business student, initiated the ‘HSBC financial literacy SIFE project’ in which a team of Mildura business students worked with indigenous students at Coomealla High School. As a past student of Coomealla, Kirsty wanted to run a project that would give something back to the school. She says “It’s about teaching students life skills in an alternative way by taking them through the whole experience of running a business”. Kirsty also wanted the project ‘To erase the educational disparity experienced between indigenous and non-indigenous students at Coomealla High School’.

Coomealla students in the project researched cultural designs which they then painted onto indigenous artefacts including didgeridoos, boomerangs and clap sticks. When these products were complete they were priced, marketed and sold. Students were then advised about saving, investing or spending their profits. Coomellea student John Kelly says ‘I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the project and learning new skills. I wouldn’t mind opening my own shop and selling similar things.’

Neil Plumeridge, Deputy Principal of Coomealla High School, is excited about the project. He says “Student attendance levels have increased dramatically. Students are engaged not only with the project but with each other. They share their ideas and enthusiasm for the artefacts that they are going to paint”.

Kirsty Duncan offers the following advice to any interested SIFErs. ‘Do join! You certainly won’t regret it. The chance to network while at university is an invaluable opportunity’. Amy Nicol recalls her memories of networking at the national conference. ‘Access to the judging panel was amazing. At one time I was actually chatting casually over a coffee to Judy Howard, Human Resources Director from Woolworths, and was asked by a manager from Campbell Arnotts to stay in touch as they wanted to recruit me’.

In 2010 the Regional School of Business is building on its Mildura SIFE success by taking it to Albury-Wodonga and Bendigo.  Students from all three campuses recently attended a SIFE induction planning day in Melbourne.  Highlights of the day included meeting students from other La Trobe campuses, and a presentation from guest speaker Leigh Wallace - Director of Grants and Philanthropy for the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation (who advised how something as small as a jam tart can clinch the decision to make a charitable donation).