Winning students head to Philly
Posted April 24, 2009
Sherazad Shaikh
University of La Verne’s Students in Free Enterprise team won the SIFE regional competition March 17 in Los Angeles. Members of the SIFE team, Walter Mansilla, Jeamnette Rodriguez, Leo Martinez, Alexis Parreira, Justin Jerry, Sarah Brown and Graham Keller will advance to the SIFE National Exposition in Philadelphia, May 10-12.

Diane Scott
Editorial Director

The University of La Verne’s best kept secret has added yet another award to its trophy cabinet.

Students in Free Enterprise fought off tough competition at the annual SIFE regional finals, from universities such as Whittier and Pepperdine to qualify for the national finals in Philadelphia next month.

Issam Ghazzawi, associate professor of management and SIFE advisor, was very proud of his students.

“It is really good for us to get our name out there and to get the University the respect it deserves,” Ghazzawi said.

Only five out of the 22 colleges and universities that entered the regional competition made it to the nationals. They are La Sierra University, Azusa Pacific University, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, University of Arizona and University of La Verne.

They will now face universities from all over America in a bid to become national champion and represent the country at the international championship in Berlin.

The competition was held March 18 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, where the SIFE team presented projects that they had performed over the past year.

These included the SIFE REACH business camp, where high school students made their own business plan in hope to win $1,000, a job creation workshop for Pomona and Pasadena school teachers to help their students be able to create jobs for themselves and the International Clean Water Initiative in Kisumu, Kenya.

The team, which consists of Walter Mansilla, Leo Martinez, Sarah Brown, Alexis Parreira, Justin Jerry and Graham Keller, were the first in their league to present.

“It was a little nerve wracking, I can tell you, but I felt so relieved after,” said Mansilla, a sophomore business administration major and SIFE president.

Mansilla praised his team and said that unlike other universities that wrote their speech down, the team memorized their speech which made them look more professional.

“I am really proud of the presenters. All the time and hard work we put into it paid off and it felt really good to win,” Mansilla said.

Leo Martinez, a freshman business administration major, said that he found the experience worthwhile.

“It is rewarding for the connections you make for future reference and as a freshman, I feel very accomplished,” Martinez said.

Ghazzawi said he was looking forward to the nationals due to the media coverage it gets and the opportunities that will arise for his students.

The SIFE national competition also features a career fair with big corporate names such as Unilever, Coca-Cola and Microsoft taking part.

“This is a good avenue for many students, especially seniors, with many employers. This is the best college job fair in the U.S.,” Ghazzawi said.

Historically, the West Coast has done well at the Nationals, with the University of Arizona and La Sierra University winning the last two years.

“I really believe that we have a really good team. We are no longer an underdog,” Ghazzawi said.

Diane Scott can be reached at

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