Waikato student social entrepreneurs go global

Press Release – University of Waikato

A group of University of Waikato students are buzzing after competing in the Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) World Cup in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month.
October 17, 2011

Waikato student social entrepreneurs go global

A group of University of Waikato students are buzzing after competing in the Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) World Cup in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month.

The students represented New Zealand in the global social entrepreneurial competition contested by 40 national teams.

The student teams used business concepts to develop sustainable projects in the community to improve people’s lives, and were judged on their presentations by a panel of business leaders.

Overall winners were a team from the University of Regensberg in Germany, but SIFE Waikato’s Jess Pasisi, who’s a third-year management student, said competing at international level had given the team more passion to come back to New Zealand and start really making a difference.

“It was eye-opening to see other motivated students and what they’ve been able to do,” she says. “We’ll be taking away some of those ideas to apply to our own projects here. SIFE is all about networking, so for us reaching the finals was an opportunity to really make those networks happen.”

The Waikato team presented three innovative projects to aid at-risk high school students, restore a local lake and create a mentoring programme for first-year university students.

Second-year management student and incoming SIFE Waikato president Clare Easton was one of five presenters in the 11-strong Waikato contingent.

“My focus was on the Phoenix Project for last-chance high school students at Hamilton’s Richmond Centre,” she says. “Our aim was to help these young people fit back into the mainstream. We did this through raising $17,000 to better equip the centre, and engaging with the students to give them life skills.”

Working with a group of 14-year-olds with behavioural problems, the SIFE team developed and ran innovative workshops on environmental sustainability and financial literacy.

“The kids just loved anything to do with computers, so in Fast Food Finance we worked out what they spent each year on fast food, and then they went on TradeMe to see what they could buy with that $1,500,” says Easton.

The project drew on the skills of SIFE students studying finance and education, and linked to another SIFE project which has developed teaching resources on worm farms for schools.

The other SIFE Waikato presenters were Brodie Mickleson, Greg Johnston, Daniel Collins and Jess Pasisi.

The team was mentored by Paul Mitchell, former chairman of the Hamilton Operatic Society, and the faculty advisor was Dr Heather Bircham-Connolly.

A SIFE Waikato team last reached the global finals in 2006.

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