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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2022 Creating Pathways to Excellence

Anonymous Philanthropy Identifies New Opportunities for Accounting Program

By Sue McMurray

Accounting students Justus Rogers and Cynthia Torres compare notes.
Photo by WSU Photo Services

Two anonymous, multimillion dollar gifts this year will distinguish the Carson College Department of Accounting as one of the best accounting program in the Pacific Northwest in terms of professional development for students and matching them with career opportunities.

In December, the department received a $3.5 million donation to establish the Endowed Program for Student Success in Accounting. The gift supports operations within the program, including helping accounting students develop communication, leadership, and networking skills that will give them a competitive edge as they begin their professional careers upon graduation.

“We are so grateful to have a philanthropist who recognizes that the educational, advising, and career placement needs of Carson College accounting students are unique,” says Chip Hunter, college dean. “This endowment will help us continue to equip accounting graduates with the skills and experiences they’ll need to meet their clients’ expectations very quickly.”

WSU President Kirk Schulz also praises the generous and thoughtful commitment to student success.

“At its core, philanthropy is about changing lives,” says Schulz. “This transformational investment demonstrates the far-reaching impact that just one generous donor can make to advance WSU’s land-grant mission and create opportunities for WSU students today and for future generations.”

Game changer for accounting students

According to Marla Meyer—the department’s Moss Adams accounting relations manager since 2018—the new endowment will not only cover salary and administration support for the advising position, but also fund professional options for both current and potential accounting majors.

One of the core options is a series of in-person tours of accounting firms—both top 20 firms as well as smaller, independently owned firms and businesses in Seattle, Portland, and Spokane. These tours, which Meyer coordinates and supervises, are essential because major employers in this field tend to be located in metropolitan areas, away from Pullman.

Through these visits, students get a taste of the career possibilities in accounting, connect with potential employers, and learn what it takes to be fully prepared to join an accounting team.

Other services include external scholarship assistance, hands-on training in networking strategies, interview preparation, and professional presentation. For instance, Meyer supports the WSU student chapter of Beta Alpha Psi to plan and host the accounting case competition, which will become a regional event in the future. She coordinates dinner etiquette classes where students learn how to conduct themselves during a recruitment meal. “The employers tell us they love our students because they are so hardworking. But some students are not as polished as they could be,” she says.

The gift also supports an overnight accounting camp for high school students on the Pullman campus. The one-day program features presentations by current accounting students and young alumni working in the field, plus presentations from large accounting firm reps as well as in-house accounting professionals at large corporations such as Costco and Weyerhaeuser.

“These resources will allow us to recruit a more diverse population of accounting students that matches the population of Washington state,” Meyer says. She also plans to expand recruiting efforts in eastern and central Washington where there are large concentrations of underrepresented high school students.

Second anonymous gift extends accounting program’s services

A second anonymous $1.5 million gift in April established the WSU Carson College of Business Department of Accounting Endowed Excellence Fund. The fund will help meet a wide range of objectives, which can evolve from year to year and may include—but are not limited to—undergraduate advising, career guidance, and event support.

The latest donation complements the first endowment and will support the highest priority needs of the accounting department each year.

According to Bernard Wong-On-Wing, professor and chair of the accounting department, the gift will help the department increase high impact, active learning that motivates more student engagement. It will also support the faculty’s continued excellence in teaching with an innovative curriculum that includes topics such as environmental, social, and governance issues; data analytics; and cyber security.

“These specifics primarily emphasize faculty teaching responsibilities and required technical skills,” Wong-On-Wing adds. “As such, they complement the activities designed to develop the soft and professional skills that are also important for our accounting students to learn.”

Hunter recognizes the gift’s impact on student recruitment and learning outcomes.

“The accounting program plays a significant role in achieving the Carson College’s vision of becoming the top choice for business education in the Pacific Northwest,” he says. “This gift will help us continue to excel at preparing accounting students with the skills and experiences they need to land that first job, and to become leaders in the profession and in the communities they will serve.”

Schulz recognizes the gift’s wide scope, the latter of which allows the Carson College dean flexibility in allocating funds.

“Unrestricted support can be incredibly impactful,” he says. “Priorities, initiatives, and technologies to support our students, faculty, and staff inevitably change over time. The flexible nature of unrestricted support creates opportunities for our leaders to make strategic investments where they will have the greatest return on that investment.”