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Monday, February 14, 2005

UNCP SIFE team overcomes the competition, odds

It was David vs. Goliath.

Pitted against some of the nation’s top universities, four UNC Pembroke undergraduates finished 3rd in a regional business competition. The team won $1,500 for their strong showing in the invitational showcase event.

From left: Lee Nejberger of Lawndale, N.C.; Angela Canon of Hope Mills, N.C; faculty advisor Cammie Hunt, Christy Blue of Laurinburg, N.C. and Justin Hadley of Snow Camp, N.C.

From left: Lee Nejberger of Lawndale, N.C.; Angela Canon of Hope Mills, N.C; faculty advisor Cammie Hunt, Christy Blue of Laurinburg, N.C. and Justin Hadley of Snow Camp, N.C.

Because of its record in past regional and national competitions, UNCP’s SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) team was invited by the College of William and Mary to go head-to-head in a finance competition, said business professor Cammie Hunt, faculty advisor.

“I was very proud of our team’s showing,” Hunt said. “The judges said they were very impressed with our team and their presentation of the case study.”

The case study asked the team to create a personal financial plan to turn-around a financially struggling family.

“When we saw their spending habits – they were $400 in the hole every month – and $42,000 in credit card debt, we knew it was not going to be easy,” team member Lee Nejberger said.

“We had to decrease their debt while planning for college expenses, life insurance and retirement at the same time,” Christy Blue said.

Starting with refinancing the home mortgage, the UNCP team erased debt, reduced needless spending and pulled a struggling family out of a sea of red ink. When they finished their graphs and PowerPoint, it all came together.

Professor Hunt said the competition was intense, especially because other teams were comprised of graduate students.

“They were discouraged at first because of the level of competition that included one team that was exclusively graduate students, but in the end, that was a motivating factor,” Hunt said.

UNCP was one of six universities in the mid-Atlantic region invited to the all-expense-paid competition. The team, comprised of Angela Canon of Hope Mills, N.C., Christy Blue of Laurinburg, N.C., Justin Hadley of Snow Camp, N.C., and Lee Nejberger of Lawndale, N.C., received a case study in personal finance on Thursday evening, prepared a response and presented the response to a panel of business executives on Saturday.

“I was so nervous when we first got our case study, but leadership and teamwork pulled us through,” Blue said.

“Dealing with adversity was the hardest part,” Nejberger said. “Among other things, the Internet at the hotel kept going down. And the judges really grilled us in the question and answer period.”

The team overcame adversity, but it may have been some native Tar Heel wisdom that pushed them over the top.

“I straightened out their son’s grades, and they saved money on video games,” Hadley said.

“We suggested they spend more family time together instead of more expensive entertainment options,” Nejberger said.

“I found appropriate college choices for their daughter,” Blue said. “We worked so hard on this case, I felt like I knew them.”

When UNCP’s team was finished, the family was $1,600 in the black every month.

Hunt said another key to success was assembling a diverse group of talents.

“I looked for people who were strong in finance, presentation skills and motivation,” Hunt said. “Angela was a good pick because she is a non-traditional student with personal experience in family financial matters.”

In the end, the students said the whole was bigger than the sum of the parts.

“We each took an area, but it came together well,” Blue said. “It was a strong presentation.”

Emory University finished first; The College of Charleston second and UNCP third. Finishing behind UNCP were Regent University, the University of Maryland at College Park and James Madison University.

SIFE is an international organization that is active on more than 1,500 college campuses in 37 countries. SIFE teams work to improve the quality of life and standard of living for millions of people around the world.

For more information on SIFE at UNCP, please contact Hunt at 910.521.6466 or cammie.hunt@uncp.edu.

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