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SIBC: Student-Led Council Offers a World of Experience

USD's Student International Business Council, which has been at USD for 15 years, appreciate SIBC's benefactor, Frank Potenziani (center), for giving them opportunities to gain real-world experience.USD's Student International Business Council, which has been at USD for 15 years, appreciate SIBC's benefactor, Frank Potenziani (center), for giving them opportunities to gain real-world experience.

It's no secret that students who want to attend University of San Diego crave an international experience. Studying abroad is often one of the top questions asked by prospective students and parents. USD is ranked second in the nation for undergraduate study abroad participation percentage because students can experience a different culture, a different way of life and create a trip of once-in-a-lifetime memories.

But did you know that undergraduate students can pursue an international experience while connecting it to a meaningful project in which you gain real-world business experience, foster peace through commerce and do it at virtually no cost?

The Student International Business Council (SIBC) is the only privately endowed, student-run council on campus. Open to all majors and all students from first-year to seniors with no experience necessary, the SIBC provides international experiences and a chance to make a difference in the world.

Started in 1998 at Notre Dame by Frank Potenziani, a Notre Dame alumnus living in San Diego, the SIBC's mission is to empower students through the ethical advancement of commerce by developing leadership, entrepreneurial ability and global interaction with a vision of peace through commerce. The SIBC operates at just three universities nationally — USD, Notre Dame and Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

Since 2003, USD's SIBC enters its 15th year of giving students opportunities to participate around the world to promote professional skill development, networking, internships, and personal growth. Through it, a student's global perspective is widened when considering their future career path.

"The SIBC provides a unique learning experience that enables students with a globally minded education, empowers them with tools and methods to positively transform lives and communities and engages students to sustainably create value (profits, prosperity and peace) for business and society," says USD School of Business Dean Jaime Gomez. "The SIBC is education with a purpose."

Helping Students Find Their Purpose

Gabriel Nakashima, founder and CEO of Charter Substitute Teacher Network, earned an economics degree from USD in 2009. He was in SIBC for three years and was intrigued by the international travel component, but his exposure to businesses and entrepreneurs using commerce to address social issues truly inspired him.

“When I learned about entrepreneurs using business to affect social change or a social mission, business took on a whole new meaning for me. It was something I could devote myself to entirely, which I did a few years later when I started the company I run today. The SIBC was one of the biggest influences during my time at USD,” he says.

As SIBC president, Nakashima led three projects. "The first was a Yerba Mate company called Guayaki. I met a Guayaki representative on the golf course, told him about the work of the SIBC and began a revenue-share program that ultimately sent several SIBC students to South America to learn about Guayaki's socially focused business model. I facilitated a project with the San Diego Padres and went to the Dominican Republic to assist with community outreach efforts. Lastly, I met an individual from Sierra Leone at a leadership conference SIBC had sent me to in Italy and began a project with his organization, Peace Links. The organization helps former child soldiers in Sierra Leone find their way back into society in productive ways."

Leadership Development

Pearl Lai is the current SIBC president. The junior international business major enjoys her involvement and the student-run element, too. Its board has a chief financial officer, chief design and marketing officers, an online engagement coordinator, special event coordinator, alumni relations chair and internship directors for Asia and Europe. Brittany Kirk, a USD and SIBC alumna, is a student advisor and Dr. Stephen Conroy, associate dean of undergraduate business programs and economics professor, is the faculty advisor.

"We learn from each other and focus on individual development and professional development. I learn from our members all the time, whether it's new research they've discovered or about our organization in general," Lai says. "Our slogan of peace through commerce is something we fully live out. We always go back to how can we make the world a better place through commerce, through business and entrepreneurship."

Lai’s most notable SIBC experience actually happened in San Diego last spring. She was project leader for Buy-Side, an SIBC finance competition for the USD, Notre Dame and Benedictine chapters. The event taught students the methodology for choosing to invest in sound companies. Each team chose three companies that are doing well financially, are socially responsible and will still have an impact 10 years from now. USD's choices were Sprouts, Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Classy.

Project Learning 

New projects emerge each semester. This past fall, two groups worked with companies in Mexico — a sustainability project with Pacifico Aquaculture in Ensenada and a marketing campaign for a global pharmaceutical conference hosted by Vector Pharma in Mexico City — and another was involved with an emerging technology project in Silicon Valley.

The learning is real and students are outside their comfort zone.

"I learned a lot about my own personal leadership style," says Zeyna Alfi, a senior international business major, who was the Vector Pharma project leader. "I was leading our seven-person group and I didn't know any of them before this project. I tried to make it as friendly and as fun as possible. It was a lot to handle. Vector Pharma expected a lot from us, especially because we were from USD and we were coming to Mexico City. They brought in the president of the biggest pharmaceutical company in Mexico. It set expectations even higher."

She and her fellow student project group — Nick Chai, Abby Hotchkiss, Julia Freund, Carolina Lemmen Meyer, Ivan Hernandez and Caroline Murray — presented ways to market Asia and Europe contacts through different communication methods. "We gave them the tools, resources and apps to make their marketing much more efficient."

Dr. Conroy, who went along with the Mexico City team, saw the impact of the students' participation firsthand.

"Working on consulting projects, like the one we did in Mexico City for Vector Pharma, provides a window into how people in other parts of the world conduct business. We know from reading research in this area that experiential learning of this sort is deep learning. The lessons learned last a lifetime and so do the relationships forged not only with clients, but also with fellow USD students who work late hours on these projects trying to perfect the analysis and the presentations."

The fall semester also included a trip to Notre Dame for the International Political and Economic Forum, attendance at a Notre Dame football game and a group of SIBC USD students gave a presentation on the question, “What will your grandchildren's lives look like?”

"To create predictions or assumptions that were solid enough, we chose to do 30-40 years out," says Audrey Cramer, a USD junior international business and economics double major. She says the group researched such areas as healthcare, finance, technology, robotics, sustainability, jobs and globalization.

It is one of many exercises to help SIBC participants understand and develop as business professionals who can play a fundamental role in peace around the world.

— Ryan T. Blystone

Photos and video provided by the SIBC