Enterprising students shine at national championships

Published 23 July 2007

A team of Southern Cross University business students were semi-finalists in this year’s SIFE Australia National Championships, held earlier this month in Melbourne.

Students Ben Faranda, Jhoanna Mendoza, Melanie Thomas and Carl Bonello from the Tweed Gold Coast campus rubbed shoulders with some of Australia’s most influential business executives during the judging of the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) competition, pitting their projects against teams from 23 other Australian universities.

SIFE is a global, not-for-profit organisation that challenges university students to make a difference in their communities and to develop their leadership, teamwork and communication skills through learning, practicing and teaching the principles of free enterprise. This is largely achieved through devising and delivering practical community outreach projects.

The Southern Cross University team’s entry comprised three community projects they have been involved in during the past year. The first was the Mentors for Inventors project, whereby the students assisted inventors with their INVEST Northern Rivers Technology and Innovation Awards applications and associated business development. The second was an Enterprising Students Competition, piloted this year at two high schools, and the third project was a home-based business workshop organised by the students at the Tweed Gold Coast campus for local small businesses in June.

The Southern Cross University team delivered written reports and oral presentations to a panel that judged its business practices, financial management skills and how effective it had been in empowering its community. In reaching the semi-finals, the team earnt a trophy and $1500 to put towards future community projects.

Ben Faranda, a post-graduate student within the Faculty of Business and Law, said one of the pleasing things about his involvement was that the team’s projects may have social as well as commercial benefits. “Our projects were very much outcome-based for the region’s people and businesses, and therefore very constructive,” he said.

Colleague Melanie Thomas, a final year Bachelor of Business student, agreed. “It was a very competitive, yet enjoyable experience that offered valuable networking opportunities but, perhaps more importantly, it gave me the chance to put something back into the community that I grew up in,” the former Wollumbin High School student said.

Dr Jennifer Harrison, the university’s SIFE faculty advisor, said the students’ presentations were inspiring.

“The students put a lot of time into their projects and it was wonderful to see their work recognised alongside the likes of the University of Melbourne (which went on to win the competition), University of Queensland and University of Sydney teams,” she said. “A lot of informal recruiting goes on at these competitions and it’s a fabulous opportunity for the students to develop their team and business skills in preparation for careers in the workplace.”

Photo: Dr Jennifer Harrison (SIFE SCU faculty advisor) with students (from left) Ben Faranda, Jhoanna Mendoza, Melanie Thomas and Carl Bonello just before the team's first round presentation at the SIFE National Championships in Melbourne.

Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.