An Adventist University Team Wins U.S. National Championship for Economic Development Projects
May 18, 2016: La Sierra University (LSU) won first place at the Enactus National Expo in Saint Louis (Missouri) yesterday. The Zapara School of Business at the Adventist university in Southern California won the national competition for projects that empower communities through entrepreneurial endeavors. The LSU team will represent the United States during the Enactus World Cup competition in Toronto (Canada) at the end of September.
There were teams from 118 universities and colleges across the country in the final round. Panels of judges comprised of executives from America’s leading corporations decided the winners. Second place went to John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas; third place to Flagler College in Saint Augustine, Florida; and fourth place to Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington, on the Yakama native American reservation.
About 20 business schools students are members of LSU’s Enactus team and worked for months on the project as well as selecting six of their number who made the 24-minute multi-media presentation at the national expo. This is the LSU team’s seventh national title during its 25-year history with Enactus, an unprecedented string of national wins. The team last brought home the national trophy in 2007, going on to win the world cup that year in New York City.
The projects that the LSU team implemented in the last year and won the national championship with included:
(1) Mobile Fresh, partnering with Family Service Association in Riverside, involves use of a renovated Riverside Transit Agency commuter bus that functions as a mobile grocery store bringing low-cost fresh produce and dry goods to neighborhoods with limited access to supermarkets. The team manages marketing and consumer education for the project and took the Mobile Fresh bus to 40 locations throughout the Riverside area. They achieved 1,800 customer transactions per month this school year with 3,824 people directly impacted. Customers saved up to 50 percent on food costs.
(2) Enactus Field Station in Denkanikottai, India, where a cow bank micro-lending program started in 2013 has more than doubled the income of participating families who receive milk cows on loan from the team, sell milk, repay the loan and ultimately buy the cow while earning significantly higher incomes. The team has purchased and loaned 117 cows thus far. Cow bank entrepreneurs in India have invested $154,740 into the local economy and none have defaulted on their loans. This project last November also established a new micro-lending program involving sewing machines and a sewing school. Thirteen young women will complete the program in June, ready to earn additional income with their new skills.
(3) Innovation Camp in California schools involved 840 high school students with lessons in innovation and human-centered design. Since 2012, more than 3,500 students from Canada, Mexico, India, China and the United States have experienced the program, creating new ideas and prototypes.
This spring the LSU Enactus team is launching a Riverside Water Project focused on the water crisis in California. Also, a new project for the Family Justice Center that will provide financial literacy, training and employment assistance for victims of domestic violence.
“What a moment for La Sierra Enactus. We are so very proud of these students who have invested so many volunteer hours on significant projects that are continuing to impact hundreds of people in the local region and in India,” said Dr. Randal Wisbey, LSU president. “We are gratified and thankful that leaders from America’s top corporations also see the value in our students’ projects and have rewarded them for their superb work.”
Dr. John Thomas, dean of the LSU business school and a founder of the university’s first Enactus team, accompanies the team to the competitions. He described how proud he was of the team’s achievement and their efforts to live out the Zapara School of Business slogan, “Create Value. Make a Difference.” He said, “These projects are making a difference and the students are doing it on their own time. We were nervous, but our strategy worked out. … We let the students lead.”
The business school is named after entrepreneurs and education philanthropists Tom and Vi Zapara who have supported the school and its Enactus teams for more than 20 years. This year, for the first time Tom Zapara, at age 93, attended the national competition and had the opportunity to witness the team’s win. In a meeting with the team afterward he told them he believed he was divinely inspired by God to attend this competition.
In addition to the Enactus national championship, the team brought home several other prizes during the event. These included first place in the Unilever Bright Future Partnership Competition and first place in the Johnson & Johnson Care Enables Progress Topic Competition. One of the students, Joe Rees won the $5,000 RILA/Unilever Retail Scholarship and the $10,000 Jules and Gwen Knapp Ambassador Scholarship, and was interviewed for a St. Louis Public Radio story on May 15 about the event.
In addition, John Razzouk, LSU’s Sam Walton Faculty Fellow, was named Sam M. Walton Free Enterprise Fellow of the Year during the national expo. In 2007, when Razzouk was student in the business school, he led the team to its 2007 national championship and world cup victories. He is now the faculty sponsor for the Enactus team.
“I was kind of speechless,” said Razzouk, describing his reaction when the team was announced as the national champion. “I was so proud. I felt kind of like a dad. We set out to prove what students are capable of.” LSU’s teams have come close to winning the national championship several times during the past nine years, placing second last year, third in 2009, and among the top eight teams in 2010.
The Enactus national competition in the United States includes 533 universities and more than 16,800 student team members. The organization began in 1975 as Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) and changed its name to Enactus in 2012.