A shiny, glass trophy is now what greets students when they walk into the offices of the school of business. For SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise), this is the tangible result of being one of the top three state qualifiers in their region for the SIFE regional competition this past March 21.
The SIFE presentation team, which is composed of eight students, provided a presentation about the 12 best projects they worked on this year to a panel of 12 judges who then critiqued them based on a strict criterion.
Nate Davis, a sophomore business administration major, was one of the members on the presentation team. Although previously being involved in drama in highs school, this type of public speaking provided new obstacles for him personally.
“This time I had to memorize a script, which wasn’t as free lance as the improvisation I did in high school,” Davis said. “What made me nervous was the fear of blanking out, not a fear of being in front of people.”
For Chrissy Salem, a sophomore history major and another member of the presentation team, the nerves were due to a fear of public speaking.
“I had taken a public speaking course before, but it was still very nerve-wracking for me to have to present in front of a big group of people, especially judges! I don’t do that kind of thing a lot,” Salem said.
All of these nerves may have been the reason why the dress rehearsal that occurred before the actual competition did not go very well. Davis attributed these nerves to the power of the presence of peers.
“The presence of peers is scary. It’s not like we were afraid of people talking about us negatively or not looking cool. We just didn’t want to look stupid in front of our friends,” Davis said.
Patricia Berg, a professor in the School of Business and SIFE team coach, would be the first person to tell the team that they have never looked stupid in the least. She has been amazed with not only their accomplishments, but more so with the way they have developed as a team.
“They have really pulled together this year creating a special kind of bond. Each brings something different to the table, and they help to amplify each other’s strengths,” Berg said. “This has created a team that is stronger together than individually.”
Salem would agree with this bond. In fact, her best memory of the competition was just sitting with the team and enjoying each other’s company.
“We went to dinner at the Hard Rock Café the night before we presented. Coach Berg said to us to not stress and just relax, which is exactly what we did,” Salem said. “It was so nice to enjoy a great meal and some fun with my co-members and friends.”
Davis had a different favorite memory, however.
“I was so thankful for the opportunity we got to network with other successful business men and women,” Davis said. “It was really encouraging to hear people tell us that we are doing ‘everything right’ in order be successful in our futures.”
Looking to the national competition in May, Berg doesn’t see any big adjustments needed in order to make the team competitively marketable. Reading through their scripts daily and mentally preparing is about it. There was not too much they could have done better at the last competition.
Davis could second that statement.
“We did everything right. There was no fidgeting and no bad body language. We were confident, smooth, and answered our questions perfectly,” Davis said. “The only thing that could separate us from the elite teams at nationals is that they simply have larger scale projects that they completed.”
Berg, too, is prepared for this. The Minnesota competition is going to bring into play schools that definitely have solid material.
“Competing against so many high caliber universities from around the country with such high quality material is going to be intimidating, but ultimately, a fantastic learning experience,” Berg said.
She also has been encouraging the team on how to handle criticism. She thinks it is important to know how to appropriately interpret critiques.
“I tell them to not think too highly of themselves with complements, but not too lowly of themselves with criticisms,” Berg said. “Ultimately, what they should be focusing on is the consistent commentary.”
In the end, Berg is confident in the team’s abilities, and believes that they, too, should be seen as a concrete competitor to other teams.
“Malone has a name for itself in the SIFE world; this will be the sixth trip for a Malone SIFE team to nationals since 2003,” Berg said. “We know our content is top notch. But all we can really do is leave it up to God and see what happens.”
Halle St. John is a contributing writer for The Aviso.