"SIBC Offers Real-World Experience" - Article from the USD Vista

An article written about SIBC written by Celina Tebor in October 19, 2017

Student International Business Council is the only club on campus with a private endowment

Celina Tebor | Feature Editor | USD Vista

Students at the University of San Diego have a plethora of clubs and organizations to be involved in — from intramural sports to cultural clubs, it seems like there is something for every student. However, there is only one organization on campus that has a $1.1 million private endowment, is one of three chapters in the nation, and sends students around the globe with financial backing: the Student International Business Council (SIBC).

SIBC seeks to give students real-world experience in international business. President of SIBC, Junior Pearl Lai, said that SIBC is important because it gives students a different experience than they get in the classroom.

“You’re taking what you’re learning in a classroom and taking it to a project and formulating a real plan,” Lai said. “It helps with public speaking, and research, and organization.”

Junior MJ Layco said his experience in SIBC has improved both his work ethic and professional skills.

“Companies can take whatever we do into consideration,” Layco said. “We just need to put trust into our work, and if we’re successful, [the companies] let us know.”

SIBC began at the University of Notre Dame in 1898, then spread to Benedictine College and eventually came to USD in 2002. Brittany Kirk, the SIBC advisor, was involved during its formation at USD. 

“I started as internship director,” Kirk said. “We had interns in UK and in Hong Kong, and there were some international leadership conferences in Italy and France that I attended also.”

SIBC’s benefactor is Frank Potenziani of the M&T Foundation. The foundation aims to strengthen the community engagement through charitable contributions to organizations. Potenziani established USD’s chapter of SIBC in 2002 with a $1.1 million endowment and frequently meets with all three chapters of SIBC throughout the year.

“[Potenziani] is fiercely intelligent and not only supports us financially,” Kirk said. “He makes himself available to the council during the semester, coming to campus and hosting networking events in Rancho Santa Fe.”

With its large endowment and $50,000 annual budget that operates off the interest from the endowment, SIBC gives students the opportunity to travel and gain experience around the world with significant financial backing. 

This fall, the entire council was invited to an overnight trip in Ensenada, Mexico to visit its project at Pacifico Agriculture. 

“We’re working on coming up with more green, sustainable, eco-friendly packaging for [Pacifico Agriculture’s] striped sea bass,” Kirk said. “The SIBC is paying for hotels, there’s boat rides out to the islands, and it’s covering all transportation costs and meals.”

SIBC utilizes its endowment to give students real-life experiences that are hard to find anywhere else for a low or free cost to the student. 

“We utilize the endowment from our benefactor to get students to gain real-world experience, or gain a means if they didn’t have one before,” Lai said. “I think our main purpose it to not only bring students together in a classroom setting, but bring them together, foster friendships, and make future connections.”

Lai explained that while some of the trips are costly, USD’s chapter of SIBC benefits from the excursions.

“We sent one of our student-internship directors to Paris, and because the money is used to send the student to where they need to be, she brought a project and managing campaign for us to work on,” Lai said.

Layco joined SIBC in spring 2017, and has participated in projects ever since. 

“The biggest project I’ve done is a marketing campaign project that we did last spring with a company in Chicago,” Layco said. “They gave us instructions of what they wanted and we had to create a marketing campaign for them and present it to them. We actually got to travel to Chicago.”

SIBC also has a trip once every semester to the University of Notre Dame for all three chapters to discuss plans for the following year. Lai explained that every year’s forum is different and presents a unique challenge.

“In the fall, we have the international politics and economics council,” Lai said. “It’s an economics forum where the benefactor gives a prompt to each school. This year’s is ‘What will our world look like for our grandchildren?’ [USD’s chapter is] focusing on the market trends and technology that can change people’s lives in the next 30 years.”

The three chapters present to each other their ideas at the forum, and find projects to relate to the topic for that semester.

“We have four projects this semester to work with tech companies and work with international companies,” Kirk said. “We network with the other SIBCs, work on presentation skills, and work on project management.”

Layco is involved in one of the four projects this semester, working with the prompt that was given to SIBC during the international politics and economics council.

Although SIBC sends students out on projects every year and has significant financial backing, most students at USD do not know about it and membership for the organization is low. Kirk referred to it as USD’s best-hidden secret.

“If you ask people on campus if they know what the SIBC is, 90 percent have never heard of it,” Kirk said. “They’re not aware that there’s a council on campus that’s privately endowed to gain experience.”

At the end of the 2016 school year, SIBC only had 35 members. Currently the organization has 50 members and is trying to expand their membership. There is no application or previous experience necessary to join.

“Our goal is to make it a very big organization,” Lai said. “My personal goal as president is to bring it up to 70 members. While we want to have a lot of members, we want to make sure everyone feels involved and has a part. The goal is to bring more projects to our organization.”

SIBC meets in Olin 225 on Tuesdays at 12:15 p.m. and is open to all majors.