It was a late Thursday morning in early February when Christina Archer visited each of the student dorms on the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus. Archer had a unique purpose in mind for her trip around campus. That morning, she delivered baby bottles to each household common room.
While it may seem strange at first, Archer did indeed have a purpose. She distributed the bottles so that people could fill them up with donations as a fundraiser for the AIM women’s center in downtown Steubenville.
And while Archer’s fundraising for AIM helped her local community, it also helped her advance in her academic and future career as a business major. Archer took this initiative during her senior year as part of her involvement in the Christian Students in Free Enterprise (CSFE) club at Franciscan University.
CSFE’s purpose as an established academic club at Franciscan is “to promote the free enterprise system in a manner that also promotes Christian moral principles,” according to faculty adviser and chairman Thomas Kelly, who holds a doctorate from Robert Morris University.
Not only does CSFE encourage its members to participate in the local community in a Christ-like manner, but it also gives business majors an advantage in their future careers by offering a unique business experience for their resumes and thesis credit.
CSFE’s history began as a small group of Franciscan business majors who were associated with Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE). When the club first began, the students in SIFE competed with several other schools regionally and even participated in nationwide competitions.
While they experienced tremendous success, Kelly wished to “take Christ into the marketplace” and decided to separate the Franciscan business department from the SIFE program. The new club was named Christian Association of Student Entrepreneurs (CASE), which was later changed into Christian Students in Free Enterprise (CSFE).
CSFE allows its Franciscan students to interact with the local Steubenville community and businesses through its various group projects. For example, Derek Markle, the current president of CSFE, recounted his time as a member of the presentation team through the club.
“I loved presentation team,” he said. “It was super intensive (and) it was a ton of work. I like presenting … researching and putting presentations together.”
CSFE also offers several other groups, such as Swimming Through Lemonade or the urban mission team, to assist the local Steubenville population.
CSFE hosts events and invites guest speakers to share about their experiences working in the business field. CSFE members are encouraged to attend these events as they continue to grow and learn what it means to be a member of the business world.
For both Kelly and Markle, it is the experience that CSFE offers its business majors that sets it apart from the other academic organizations on campus.
Markle explains that CSFE allows business students to succeed despite Franciscan University’s apparent lack of experience toward business administration. “One of the problems that comes with us being a liberal arts college is the fact that they don’t necessarily know how to cater to our major in every way, shape or form,” Markle said. “What CSFE really does is that it allows us to put hard skills on our resume.”
Markle stated that, before he was president, he added his experience on the presentation team to the top of his resume. He even added the names of the members of the Business Advisory Board that he presented to, adding more detail about his involvement in CSFE.
Experience and internships are what make particular resumes stand out to employers. CSFE caters to this need for experience through the many programs and activities it provides to its members.
Both Markle and Archer said that they added CSFE to their resumes and encouraged others to do the same. “You do learn skills,” Archer said. “I feel like it teaches you how to work with a variety of different people.”
In addition to offering events, projects and experience for business majors, CSFE allows business majors to received thesis credit for contributing their time to the club. Requirements for thesis credit include committing 80 hours toward CSFE over the course of four years through working on the projects and attending meetings.
Students are also required to lead at least one project and submit a two-to three-page paper addressing their experiences in CSFE. While active membership in the club greatly benefits seniors, Kelly highly recommends that students enter CSFE early, as it is increasingly challenging to fulfill the time requirement if one joins as an upperclassman.
While CSFE continues to bring in new students each year, Markle has a short-term goal in mind to help further expand the club. “We need to solidify what we have now and then try to grow in other ways,” he said. “So, solidifying ourselves so that we can grow outwardly in a healthier fashion is really ultimately what I’m trying to get done.”
Kelly has considered many future long-term goals for its members as well. He hopes to contact other Catholic and Christian universities in the surrounding areas “and have them form their own CSFE teams all around the country: that is our ultimate goal.”
For current Franciscan students, CSFE continues to expand and to spread its mission throughout the department and local community by reaching as many business students as possible.
With the job market becoming more competitive by the day, the first-hand experience that the club provides in the business field is essential for students that wish to stand out to future employers. As more and more students enroll at Franciscan University, CSFE will continue to attract more students that wish to thrive in the competitive work environment and show them what it truly means to succeed as a member of the Church and of the community.