By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—Accounting professionals from the region joined accounting and finance students from IU Southeast and other colleges at the annual Student Night event, hosted by the Louisville chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and the IU Southeast Accounting Club.
Billed as “an accounting version of speed dating,” the event, now in its fifth year, provides students an opportunity to talk to professionals in a wide range of different finance and accounting roles at diverse companies and industries.
The conversations take place in an informal roundtable format, with breaks for networking.
“We want the students to be able to talk to the professionals about what they like and don’t like about their jobs, what recommendations they have to chart a similar path, and what they would do differently,” said Lisa Book, lecturer in accounting and director of community relations on the board of the IMA Louisville Chapter, of which she is past president. “It’s all about exploring what they can do with an accounting or finance degree.”
This year’s event drew 45 professionals from areas ranging from corporate accounting and internal auditing to not-for-profit accounting and fraud.
The range of specialty areas reflects the changing role of the accountant in the current workforce. No longer mere number crunchers, today’s accountants are expected to be business advisors with big-picture vision who can make strategic decisions and lead. Managing risk, adapting to changing regulatory regimes, reducing costs and partnering with other divisions to deliver increased value to the company are just a few of the tasks that accountants now find on their to-do lists.
“CEOs and boards now count on the CFO and his or her team to be voices of reason and insight,” Book said. “As expectations increase, so does the need for accountants who are skilled in business trategy, critical thinking, information integration, problem solving and risk and opportunity management.”
IU Southeast alumna Laura Feather, staff accountant with Jones Nale & Mattingly PLC, represented her firm as a roundtable facilitator. While a student, Feather was a member and officer of the IU Southeast Accounting Club, and helped to plan the Student Night for two years. She values the way in which the interactions help students gain a 360-degree view of their field as it morphs in sync with the changing marketplace. At the same time, contact with professionals help students practice the little things that might make a difference between success and better-luck-next-time.
“During these events I was able to practice my communication and interview skills with strangers,” Feather said. “This included things as simple as learning how to properly shake hands with a professional, how to appropriately introduce myself and become more comfortable approaching people and starting a conversation.”
Vicky Kaeser, another IU Southeast alumna, is financial assistant for The Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky. She knows the impact that Student Night can have.
“At my first Student Night, I sat at the table for not-for-profits,” Kaeser said. “Today I work for a not-for-profit.”
The Student Night opened Kaeser’s eyes to a wide range of possibilities for applying the accountant’s toolkit she was busy acquiring at IU Southeast.
“I was getting my first education in how to look deeper than the obvious, and see that a CPA or corporate path was not my only option,” Kaeser said.
This year’s IMA Student Night drew representatives from the IMA and KyCPA organizations, as well as 57 students from other institutions such as Berea College, Bellarmine University, University of Kentucky and Sullivan University, among others.
“The School of Business is strongly committed to helping our students find meaningful, well-paying jobs upon graduation,” said David Eplion, dean. “Student Night brought executives from dozens of the top accounting firms in our region on to our campus. Many of them were actively looking to hire our students, and a number of job interviews were set up as a result of this event,”
Homepage photo: Andy Cornelius, a graduate of the IU Southeast post-bac program in accounting, and now senior project manager for Oasis Solutions, makes a point during a roundtable at Student Night.