It’s a different kind of “Road to the Final Four.”
While NCAA basketball teams are battling on the hardwood, Keuka’s Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) exposition team, part of the 40-member SIFE club on campus, hits the road Sunday for regional competition in Cleveland, Ohio Monday. At regionals, the six-member presentation team plus their audiovisual tech specialist will have just 24 crucial minutes to set up multimedia presentation equipment and impress the judges – private-sector business executives – with a formal retelling of the club’s accomplishments in the past academic year. Keuka will face other college teams in one of four leagues, competing for top spots in each league to advance to national competition in May in Minneapolis, Minn.
“With the [multimedia], it’s highly choreographed. Some of the teams are more sophisticated than the evening news – it’s just unbelievable,” said Neil Siebenhar, SIFE team adviser and chair of the Division of Business and Management.
SIFE is an international, non-profit organization that works with leaders in business and higher education to mobilize students to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills to become socially responsible business leaders. There are approximately 1,500 SIFE teams in some 40 countries. Participating students form clubs on their campuses and apply business concepts to develop outreach projects that improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need.
In Yates County, home to Keuka’s main campus, the average median income is just $16,000, with some 14 percent of residents living below the poverty level. That makes it one of the poorest counties in the state, cited one SIFE presenter during a Friday practice session. As pointed out by SIFE team menbers, that also means the projects Keuka’s team leads in neighboring communities such as Penn Yan, are meeting some critical needs for local residents. Among the seven primary success stories from Keuka’s SIFE team this year are:
This year’s team took the “choreography” a step farther, with each presenter memorizing their portion of the script, stepping forward to deliver lines in time with the video projected on screen behind them. College President Dr. Joseph G. Burke, who attended the Friday rehearsal on campus, praised the team for their early success at memorizing the script so early in the competition. SIFE’s 11 years at Keuka have been marked with numerous trips to regional and national competition.
Burke also noted a change in the group’s focus this year, from a wide variety and number of projects, particularly those incorporating hands-on work with local businesses, toward a lesser number of projects, with a heavier focus on social services and the environment.
In response, Senior Molly McGuigan, one of the SIFE team presenters, replied that the national focus of SIFE has shifted to “people, planet, profit” and the team has pared down from a high of more than 30 yearly projects to just seven primary ones.
Other team members also representing Keuka SIFE at regionals Monday are: junior Ryan Nichols, senior Kaitlyn Wood, junior Annie Mullen, junior Kyle Stephans, junior Morgan White and tech specialist, Case Hamilton, a junior.