Leveraging connection with Fortune 500 CEOS to make an impact

“It is always exhilarating to get out there and present our projects to the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, but I think the most exciting part of SIFE is just stepping back and realizing what kind of positive impact we make within our community and around the world,” says Zach Kuntz, a business major from Ely, Iowa.

If that comment shocks you as incredibly mature and poised for a college student and 20-something, you are not alone. But ask Mount Mercy’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team members, and you will repeatedly be amazed by the group’s humility, commitment to serving Mount Mercy and the community and their insistence that it is normal to share meals and connections with the CEOs of international corporate entities like Sam’s Club and Bellisio Foods.

Mount Mercy SIFE students have earned a reputation as some of the best, brightest and well connected SIFE students in the country. It is a reputation earned through hard work, but one about which they refuse to gloat.

“We have the most down-to-earth students in our SIFE program,” says Tom Castle, Mount Mercy SIFE advisor and Dean of Adult Accelerated Programs. “They know the value of hard work, are not afraid to get their hands dirty helping others and truly understand and appreciate the mission of SIFE — to showcase marketing, entrepreneurship and ethics-driven business practices through servant leadership.”

As Mount Mercy’s award-winning SIFE team has shown, serving the community can be accomplished through many avenues. In 2009–10, SIFE earned its 13th consecutive Regional Championship by showcasing its service and volunteerism activities to a panel of judges in Chicago, Ill.

A welcome by-product of last year’s regional victory was the renewed cultivation of SIFE’s relationship with international corporation Sam’s Club, which provided entrée for Mount Mercy students to travel to Orlando, Fla. and Bloomington, Ill. to discuss their commitment to service and to promote Mount Mercy and its values. Mount Mercy SIFE students were featured in a national video highlighting successful SIFE and community partnerships.

Additionally, Sam’s Club CEOs and executives from across the country kicked off their annual corporate meeting with the video, highlighting the Mount Mercy SIFE team and the impact the students have leveraged locally, regionally and nationally.

Kuntz doesn’t underestimate the value of his experiences in SIFE. “When I visited Mount Mercy for the first time, I was told about SIFE and the opportunities it could provide but I don’t think any words can describe the experience and benefits that SIFE can provide for college students interested in business and making a positive impact on their community,” he says. “SIFE has enabled me to make a ton of great connections with my professors at Mount Mercy University and with leaders around the community. These connections have led to the internship I currently hold and I believe that they will probably lead to my first job out of college.”

“As the success of Mount Mercy’s SIFE team has grown in the past few years, our students have been able to experience things that previously would have been unthinkable,” says Castle. “The relationships we’ve established with Sam’s Club and Bellisio Foods, to name a few, have provided our students with promising networking opportunities and has shown them what types of careers are at their fingertips.”

Mount Mercy SIFE students are certainly not the only members of the campus community who donate their time throughout the year. In the 2009–10 academic year, Mount Mercy  students, faculty and staff volunteered in more than 10 community service outreach projects in the Cedar Rapids and surrounding community, including spearheading the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Day, and assisting with Habitat for Humanity and other projects, building on Mount Mercy’s already strong reputation to serve where need exists.