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ND SIBC launches projects

Emma Driscoll | Friday, January 25, 2008

Notre Dame students have been putting their business savvy to many uses through the Student International Business Council (SIBC).

Organized into six different divisions – accounting, business consulting, finance, global development, human resources, internships and marketing – the SIBC works on projects to “accomplish [its] vision of peace through commerce,” said Maria Bufalino, director of the marketing division. “We accomplish this by working with different companies on a more international level.”

The SIBC has worked with companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Boston Consulting Group, Starcom, Deloitte, RSM McGladery and NBC Sports, as well as nonprofits like Luca Leadership, Bufalino said.

The Council has also worked with Notre Dame Millennium Development Initiative (NDMDI), Bufalino said.

Bufalino said there are three to six projects for each of the six divisions, and anywhere from five to 20 students working on an individual project.

“We try to keep it very diverse,” Bufalino said. “It really can benefit everyone, not just business majors. You get to practice presenting in front of people and you get to meet a variety of people and you get to learn and have fun.”

Students present projects to companies in order to form partnerships.

“The projects, almost all of them except for the global development projects, are presented to the companies that we work with, mostly in Chicago,” Bufalino said. “There was a group of students last semester that went to Goldman Sachs in New York and another group that went to Liz Claiborne in New York. We try to broaden out and get to other projects that are across the country.”

Through working on various projects, students get the opportunity to learn about the business world. Many students also work on projects and internships internationally – in places such as Uganda, Cambodia, Ireland, London, Thailand, Ghana and Poland.

“Artisan Opportunities International is an organization founded by two SIBC members a couple years ago,” said Tina Tovar, global development division director. “They founded it and they went to Nicaragua and when they were there, they decided they wanted to work with hammock artisans.”

The SIBC purchased the hammocks made by artisans, took them to the United States to be sold and used the profits from the hammocks to help the artisans in Nicaragua, Tovar said.

Tovar said that she researched the needs of the artisans and determined the best use for the hammock profits when she visited Nicaragua.

“We would go visit homes everyday and kind of observe and talk to them about what their needs were,” she said. “Basically our trip was mostly for research purchases.”

While in Nicaragua during its rainy season, Tovar saw that the artisans’ houses “were in very bad condition, they were getting rained on and everything inside was getting wet.”

Thus, the SIBC members in Nicaragua decided a housing project would benefit the artisans.

SIBC chief financial officer Kadeja Gaines also spent time abroad with the program. She traveled to Uganda on the Uganda Project, part of the NDMDI.

Members of the Uganda Project found a group of women in which one had attended a seminar to learn how to dye fabrics to earn money, Gaines said. The women live in an area heavily affected by HIV/AIDS, and part of the project will aim to “create a sewing school where HIV orphans can learn a craft that can make them money when they are adults in the future,” Gaines said. “Currently we are trying to research markets, importing and exporting the fabrics, and also [determining] what these fabrics can be made into.”

Students and women in Uganda can benefit a great deal from this project, she said.

“Students in this project are learning how to build a business from the ground up. [It is] great for these women in Uganda because it is hopefully going to allow them to turn a profit and allow them to better their community,” Gaines said.

The SIBC has developed more of an international focus recently.

“It has changed in the fact that we’re more focused on our vision of peace through commerce … and what skills we can use to develop the vision,” Bufalino said.

Bufalino said that interested members can attend division meetings next week, and information about all projects is available on the SIBC’s Web site.