In an era where there are numerous university opportunities for social interaction, community service, and leadership,students are becoming more independent than ever before. Most are technologically savvy, some have studied abroad, and many achieve good grades while working part- or full-time jobs. Yet a recent study by the Association of American Colleges & Universities reports that just 23 percent of employers say recent college graduates are well prepared when it comes to having the ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.
The study also found that college students are notably out of sync with employers’ perceptions of their preparedness on a wide range of skills and knowledge areas. Students express much greater confidence in their level of preparedness in all areas than employers indicate they see demonstrated.
Industry professionals from national and corporate business firms are doing their best to ensure this isn’t the case with Carson College of Business students. By engaging with the WSU Delta Epsilon chapter of Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), an international honor organization for financial information students and professionals, they form a supportive community that respects students’ growing sense of independence yet offers them the mentor-ship and critical job skills training they still need.
MENTORING LEADS TO INTERNSHIPS
The key to WSU accounting students’ success, and a top reason they have such high placement rates, is the close mentorship they experience in the BAP organization, according to Nori Pearson, chapter advisor.
Piloted three years ago, the mentor-ship program was originally based on a three-tier system with a student mentee (typically a junior), a student mentor (typically a senior), and a professional mentor. Due to the program’s success, BAP leaders added an extension. The mentorship program extension bridges the gap for incoming freshmen and transfer students by incorporating community colleges and high school students into the program.
“By connecting with students at an earlier age, our goal is to increase the number of competent candidates graduating from our University and ultimately grow our job placement percentage and provide value to the state of Washington,” says Sue Gill, chair of the Department of Accounting.
“BAP often functions as a two-way communication tool,” says Pearson. “Students and firms become familiar with each other at our networking events, but firms who aren’t able to travel to Pullman use BAP to announce internships and jobs,” she says.
INTERNSHIPS LEAD TO REWARDING CAREERS
The study also notes large majorities of employers say they are more likely to consider a job candidate who has participated in an internship, a senior project, a collaborative research project, a field-based project in a diverse community setting with people from different backgrounds, or a community-based project.
This year, 36 BAP members were placed in internships with corporate industry leaders including Amazon, Costco, Moss Adams LLP, Deloitte, KPMG, and many other firms. Students gain a wealth of real- world experience as tax accountants, auditors, industry and governmental accountants, and more in positions ranging from three months to a year. In addition to the students who received full-time offers after completing internships, 14 BAP seniors received full-time job offers.
BETA ALPHA PSI BENEFITS
BAP membership also requires regular service hours to be completed each semester, and members may also participate in external community service, sometimes with the firms that recruit on campus. Last year, BAP partnered with Moss Adams LLP to assemble fleece tied blankets donated to an African orphanage.
BAP offers students a multitude of other benefits, including weekly interaction with accounting professionals, exposure to internships and careers in accounting, mock interviews, résumé and cover letter preparation, dressing for success and professional etiquette, and networking.
“The written and oral skills students obtain from résumé and interview workshops are invaluable,” says Pearson. “But sometimes students still need basic advice, such as ‘don’t look at your phone during an interview.’”
BAP’s professional activities keep within the accounting program’s mission to provide excellent accounting education and prepare students for successful and rewarding careers in accounting and business. The WSU chapter has earned the Superior Chapter status, one of the organization’s highest awards recognizing academics, professionalism, and leadership excellence, for 15 consecutive years.
A Glimpse Inside Beta Alpha Psi
Principal, Peterson Sullivan LLP
Former BAP member, Accounting Advisory Board member
We connect with BAP by presenting at on-campus chapter meetings, networking, and participating in hosted events such as banquet and recognition dinners, and office visits. Being involved with BAP is a great way for students to stay informed and prepare for the recruiting process. Based on feedback from BAP members, Peterson Sullivan offered a blended internship in the summer of 2016. Blended interns experience both the audit and tax compliance areas to better understand what it will be like to be an auditor or tax accountant before more fully committing to one of these career paths. Additionally, we hire fellow Cougs not only because of their great enthusiasm and commitment in the workplace—they also enhance our recruiting efforts.
(’10 Accounting, ’11 MAcc)
Audit Senior, Clark Nuber
Former BAP member
BAP is an excellent resource for firms and professionals to connect with WSU students and mutually determine what is a good fit career-wise. When I was at WSU, I wasn’t a 4.0 student, and the recruiting process really intimidated me. I want to be there for students like me who will be successful professionals but don’t always fit the mold of an ideal student applicant. I love being able to give back to the college that made me the professional I am today. Besides recruiting, I am a professional mentor to BAP students. One thing about WSU students is their ability to socialize. Much of public accounting is client service oriented, and the ability to carry on a conversation with a client you don’t have much in common with is a hard skill to teach. Something about the culture of WSU fosters that in students and helps them succeed at Clark Nuber and other firms. You can quickly tell if students have been an active member of BAP based on the way they carry themselves around professionals. BAP is a great organization that truly helps set up our students for a smooth, successful transition into the working world.
(’13 Accounting, ’14 MAcc)
Audit Senior Assistant, Deloitte & Touche LLP
Founder, BAP Mentorship Program
What really makes the BAP program special is the alumni involvement. When I started at Deloitte, I could count on one hand the number of WSU alumni at our firm. Over the past few years, Deloitte has become increasingly involved with WSU due to high talent levels and reputation of a strong work ethic, largely attributed to the continuous growth and mentoring within BAP. The chapter exposes students to professional services firms and companies throughout the Pacific Northwest. Over the past three years, Deloitte expanded alumni participation in the BAP mentor program and added recruiting visits to campus. As a result, we have successfully grown the Coug presence at the firm; last year we hired 12 WSU graduates. I fully expect BAP to continue to grow the number of Cougs in the accounting industry, and I look forward to my continued involvement with the program.
Former Vice President, BAP Mentor Program
WSU offers a variety of resources to help students achieve their goals. That resource for me was Beta Alpha Psi. BAP is different from other clubs. Students attend weekly, face-to-face meetings with different regional accounting and private industry firms. Advisors are always present to guide students through the process. BAP was a tremendous support in my academic endeavor and prepared me with the knowledge I needed for my career. It also taught me to develop my networking skills with other students and professionals. Most importantly, I met many amazing individuals who learned and grew with me over the past few years. I learned many important interview skills and ultimately had an opportunity for several internships. I accepted an internship with Deloitte and believe that without BAP, it would have been a much greater challenge.
Former Vice President, BAP Mentor Program
Being a student at WSU is all about expanding one’s network and taking advantage of the countless opportunities available to students. I chose to participate in Beta Alpha Psi. This organization is committed to developing students into professionals who will contribute to the workforce in a big way. Some of the skills I gained as a member and officer include interview experience, résumé and cover letter preparation, and most of all, the ability to network with accounting professionals. With the help of BAP, I feel confident and prepared to begin my career in public accounting. I recommend joining BAP to anyone interested in a career in accounting, both public and private. Participating in an organization that promotes constant improvement is incredible and one of the best decisions a student can make while attending WSU.