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Mary Embry
Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design

Jennifer Piurek
University Communications

Last modified: Thursday, April 16, 2009

IUís Fair Trade Bloomington recognized for entrepreneurship at regional competition

Group part of Students in Free Enterprise within Department of Apparel Merchandising

April 16, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's campus chapter of Students in Free Enterprise was recently named a national finalist in entrepreneurship for its Fair Trade Bloomington project at the SIFE USA Regional Competition March 27 in Rogers, Ark.

IU's Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) group operates through the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Design (AMID) in the Retail Design and Merchandising Group, but is open to students from any discipline. AMID is a division of IU's College of Arts and Sciences.

Of the 350 student groups that participated in regional SIFE competitions across the country, just 20 were named finalists in the area of entrepreneurship; winners will be named at the SIFE USA National Exposition May 10-12 in Philadelphia.

SIFE team photo

Students who presented at a March 27 SIFE competition in Arkasas are, from left, Elana Borchers, Eric Nelson, Jill Cimasko, Allison Fox, Sasha Harris, Danielle Thoe and David Gunkel with faculty advisors Mary Embry and Charity Rausch.

Print-Quality Photo

The IU group, which included SIFE members Elana Borchers, Eric Nelson, Jill Cimasko, Allison Fox, Sasha Harris, Danielle Thoe and David Gunkel, won $1,000 that will be used to support and sustain the organization.

SIFE is an international non-profit organization active on more than 1,400 university campuses in 48 countries, with about 900 groups in the United States. SIFE teams create economic opportunities in their communities by organizing outreach projects that focus on entrepreneurship, personal financial success skills and business ethics.

Mary Embry, an AMID lecturer who serves as faculty advisor for SIFE, said the group's mission isn't just to teach business skills, but to teach economic development and global sensitivity.

"It's appropriate that this program is in the Department of Apparel Merchandising; this program is very humanities-based," Embry said, adding that SIFE students can gain skills in design, finance, sales and retail, among many others.

Rick Bomberger, director of undergraduate studies in AMID's Retail Design and Merchandising Group, said SIFE and Fair Trade Bloomington help to broaden student's worldviews. "It helps them gain a global perspective," he said. "They understand that they have a responsibility. Students also come to SIFE from majors across campus, making for a diversified group."

SIFE students create their own projects each semester, also expanding upon or helping to sustain existing projects. They receive guidance from Embry on how to enact their projects while also having the opportunity to take on leadership roles in the organization.

IU's Student Activities Organization ranked Students in Free Enterprise the top leadership organization on campus in 2007-08 and also honored the group for its civic engagement.

During a 24-minute entrepreneurship presentation before corporate executives from companies such as Wal-Mart and Frito-Lay, SIFE teams at the regional competition in Arkansas were asked to present projects in the areas of financial literacy, entrepreneurship, market economics, business ethics, success skills and environmental sustainability. Each presentation had to cover the need the project addressed and demonstrate that it created meaningful economic opportunity, a transfer of skills and impact.

Elana Borchers, one of SIFE's vice presidents at IU, helped present the group's work from the past year, including the concept for opening a fair trade store in Bloomington. A telecommunications major also pursuing a business foundation certificate and apparel merchandising minor, Borchers has enjoyed taking part in SIFE competitions, both to see what other schools are doing and to hone her own presentation skills.

"I truly believe in the mission of SIFE," said Borchers. "Through different programs, we're helping to support people in developing countries, working with teenagers on job interview skills, visiting elementary schools to do presentations -- SIFE gets people jobs. If I hadn't joined SIFE, I probably wouldn't make time to just volunteer."

"Clearly, students are using the academic background they possess as a tool to make SIFE work," said Bomberger. "We support their ability to take knowledge from the classroom into reality. What you can learn academically on Monday, you can physically go out and see it in action the same week. It makes learning in our classroom become more relevant."

Embry has enjoyed seeing SIFE produce young leaders. "They have to maintain projects, operate the organization and then at the end of the year be aware of what their results were and communicate those results. I just see it change people from month to month into professionals," said Embry. "They have to constantly re-energize the whole organization, constantly recruit, constantly make people happy -- and that's being a leader. That's being visionary."

For more information about Students in Free Enterprise, see