Regional Champions

Enactus USF impresses judges with its innovative projects; next stop, the nationals in Kansas City, Mo.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (April 23, 2013) – “Nationals, here we come!!” wrote Vanessa Vasquez on the Enactus USF Facebook page, expressing her team’s joy. The junior psychology major couldn’t be happier to see her hard work with her fellow presentation team members rewarded with the coveted trophy.


Enactus at USF (formerly Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE)) impressed judges in Atlanta at the regional competition among the southeastern Enactus chapters held earlier this month. Gathering with 39 other teams of competitors, the University of South Florida group emerged with the status of “champion” along with Bryan College and Valdosta State University in League Five, one of eight leagues and eight sets of winners.


They’re headed to the Enactus National Competition May 21 – 22 in Kansas City, Mo., along with winners from nine other regions around the country.


More than 500 active universities with more than 21,000 active students comprise Enactus in the United States. These chapters represent the single largest country operation in an organization that functions in 39 nations with more than 62,000 students.


“We presented all of our projects, taking all we have achieved during the year,” said Enactus Executive Director Katherine Gonzalez, a junior majoring in business management and long term care administration.


According to the team evaluations from the judges, “They liked the impact that Suit-A-Bull and Refill-A-Bull are making on campus. Kid Ocean was another project that they really liked because of the environmental aspect of it,” she said.


Because of these Enactus projects, USF students have access to suits they can borrow for job interviews and special occasions, and everyone on campus can refill bottles and containers with fresh water at stations the club set up in convenient spots to cut down on plastic bottle waste. Kid Ocean is a project Enactus USF entered in the o.b. Call to Reduce Ocean Pollution Competition that involved local Cub Scouts in a beach cleanup and the creation of an interactive website (under construction). Results will be announced in Kansas City.


“They felt that each project is important to the community, but would like to see even more development for each one,” said Gonzalez. For example, regarding Suit-A-Bull, “They liked the idea that we want to take it even further and reach out to the veterans, starting with a special satellite program for them. We need to work with the VA in finding a space to house a suit closet for the vets. Should this initiative work, we plan to call it Suits For Vets.”

Thang “Ryan” Nguyen, a sophomore and marketing major who serves as director of marketing and recruitment for the club added, “I think they were blown away by how supportive the Tampa Bay community was to our organization, as shown by Suit-A-Bull. When a judge asked us how we got so much media attention, I just told him, ‘Once the community learned about what we were doing, they just spread the word.’” 


Presentation team member Christopher Ferlita, a junior majoring in management information systems, said, “Going to competition for the first time was extremely exhilarating. People tell you what to expect. But until you actually experience it, you don’t understand the depth of the experience you will have.”

He described it as a bit nerve-racking but also awe-inspiring. “Being up in front of judges and other teams is enough to make anyone nervous. However, being able to keep our composure and deliver a presentation to those in the room was an experience that was well worth it. I really enjoyed getting to listen to the other teams deliver their presentations and getting a feel of what Enactus means to their communities and what the community means to Enactus. It really made me think about how we can make a change not just in our community but in the world at large.” 

A senior majoring in finance, Enactus Treasurer Arian Howard, said, “As someone who competed in both the regional and national exposition last year, I can say that the atmosphere is a bit different between the two competitions. Things are a bit more competitive at the national, so we really have to come with our ‘A’ game.”


How does the team get it’s “A” game in shape?


“It is the tried and true way to prepare for competition,” said Gonzalez, “Practice, practice and more practice. We write the script and rewrite it umpteen times until we are finally satisfied with how it flows and gets the message across. The presentation team has many hours of going over the script. So much so that one of my members told me she woke up reciting it one morning. Now that is dedication!”

The Atlanta outing gave team members a valuable preview of what to expect going forward.


“There are so many great teams. Every one of them has incredible projects that are created especially for their communities and their needs,” Gonzalez said. “It is so difficult to know how you will place. You feel that you did a great presentation and are confident in your team and that you will move on. It isn’t until the awards ceremony that you find out if the judges agree with you – or not. There is no better feeling than hearing your team announced as the winner!”

Contestants also have the future on their minds.    

“It’s an intense but friendly competition among great teams, but it’s also a huge career fair with jobs and internships offered exclusively to Enactus students, and a lunch with top executives from Fortune 500 companies,” said Nguyen. “I couldn’t ask for a better experience for a job seeker like me. I even had the Enactus vice president of marketing ask me if I needed a mentor and introduce me to other executives. How many times do you have that experience?”

Gonzalez agrees. “You are able to network with representatives from many major corporations who are there seeking you out. They want to bring these students into their organizations as interns and offer students jobs later when we graduate. These organizations know who the Enactus students are, the work we do and how dedicated we are to our projects. Where else are you going to get exposure to that many CEO’s, regional managers and recruiters in one place? And be able to impress them with your skill sets?”

The other members of the team are freshman accounting major Ashley Piasecki, art major and senior Aisha Tazi and Suit-A-Bull project leader Aimee Phipps. They may get more company. 


“We are adding more members to our presentation team to get more of our members involved. We feel that having a larger team up there will give us a stronger presence and allow us a better chance of winning,” said Howard.


One constant, as students join the club and graduate, has been the academic advisor who started it all in 2005, Dameion Lovett, USF’s associate director of University Scholarships & Financial Aid Services.

“Our teams have made it to the nationals five out of eight times but they’ve made me proud of them at each of the competitions we’ve been part of,” he said. “They’ve learned from each one and improve every year. I can honestly say this is an especially strong team.”

Lovett said this is the last year Enactus will be using the regional competition format to advance to nationals though. Starting next year, all teams will be invited to the national competition. This will cut down on expenses to the winning teams and will give every team the experience of attending a national competition.

“This will make a huge difference for teams that have never been to a national competition,” he said.

And speaking of costs, raising funds to cover the expense of taking the team to Kansas City is one of the team’s challenges as they prepare to compete as well as finish their classes for the semester. Donations are welcome. Please contact Lovett at (813) 974-5462 to help.


For more information about Enactus USF and to join, contact Nguyen at and visit to see what’s new.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.