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UNI students win second place in Sam's Club national sustainability competition

April 28, 2011

Katherine Cota-Uyar, associate director, UNI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, 319-273-5732,

Rebecca Schultze, communications and public relations director, UNI College of Business Administration, 319-273-3309


CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – A University of Northern Iowa student team won second place and $4,000 in the Sam's Club Environmental Sustainability Challenge held in Bentonville, Ark., on April 22.

Adam O'Leary, a senior economics major from Garner, and Tony Patterson, a senior economics major from Cedar Falls, represented the UNI Entrepreneurs/Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team at the national competition for the Sam's Club challenge. The team, working with local Sam's Club associate Jeff Martin, helped Cottonwood Canyon in downtown Waterloo become more environmentally sustainable by replacing paper towels with hand dryers, switching to 100-percent biodegradable to-go cups, and installing a commercial dishwasher.

"We were able to help Cottonwood Canyon save 336 gallons of water per month, eliminate 6 tons of cardboard recycling from that city block, and reduce expenses by $150 per month," said Patterson.

O'Leary said, "We enjoyed being part of the Sam's Club challenge and making a positive impact on the community and the environment."

The Sam's Club Environmental Sustainability Challenge provides the opportunity for SIFE teams and Sam's Club associates to work together to implement environmentally sustainable practices in the facilities and operations of Sam's Business Members' businesses. The SIFE teams must address two of three areas of sustainability: waste and recycling, energy and water, or people and community. Judges for the competition were Sam's Club president and vice presidents.

 "The UNI Entrepreneurs/SIFE team applied business, economic and entrepreneurial concepts to this project and created a sustainable approach for a local business," said Sam Walton Fellow and UNI Entrepreneurs/SIFE adviser Laurie Watje. "We are pleased with the national second-place win and have enjoyed working with Sam's Club."

UNI Entrepreneurs/SIFE is a student organization in the UNI College of Business Administration and a program of the UNI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. UNI JPEC, a division of UNI's Business and Community Services, provides a range of innovative educational programs and support services designed for student entrepreneurs. For more information about JPEC at UNI, visit, call 319-273-JPEC (5732) or e-mail