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Accounting Faculty ‘Adopt a Firm’ to Strengthen Curriculum, Prepare Students

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What do accounting majors need in order to be work ready when they graduate? Faculty members are gaining insights as part of an “adopt a firm” program recently instituted in the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics.

“Faculty members are working as liaisons, each full-time faculty member working with a major Orange County firm,” said Betty Chavis, chair and professor of accounting.

The program creates a two-way communication path whereby faculty members share what is going on in the department, and firms share what they are seeking in interns and new hires.

“They tell us in what areas our students are doing well and where they may need more education or training,” Chavis explained. “The firms’ comments help us make decisions about what we can do to make our program even stronger and more responsive to the needs of our students so they can be successful.”

“The effort has been very effective,” said Chavis. “Businesses are now calling us when they have job openings, and we’re getting good and important information.”

Vivek Mande, professor of accounting, agrees. “We serve as the connection between our students and these firms. But it’s also more. It’s a good opportunity for the faculty to get to know firms and be able to discuss what research we are doing, to share information,” he explained. “Good relationships are key to keeping up the quality of a program. This is a win-win situation for both Mihaylo College and the firms that we work with.”

Dennis Parrott, managing partner with KPMG and a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board, agrees about the value of a connection with Mihaylo College and the Accounting Department. “Its valuable … to learn what’s going on with students in the classroom, technology updates and trends.”

Already, the close relationships are resulting in good news for both firms and the department. For example, a new state law that became effective last year requires that all applicants for a CPA license must have a baccalaureate degree and 150 units.

The current degree on campus is 120 units, noted Chavis. “So we’ve been promoting that students stay the extra year, get their master’s and be prepared to become licensed CPAs.”

Effective in January 2017, applicants for the CPA license in the state also will have to have completed a course titled “Accounting Ethics.”

“Right now they need 10 units of ethics, however, other courses can be used to fulfill the 10 units. But beginning Jan. 1, 2017, they will need the “Accounting Ethics,” course,” said Chavis. “So last spring, we instituted a four-unit “Accounting Ethics” course and are offering it every semester and in the summer.

“We’ve also added a valuation course, based on what the top 50 accounting firms are telling our faculty members,” she added. “Demand for our graduates is high, and we want to keep it that way. Every business organization these days has to have an accountant, and if we can educate our students to meet their needs, we’ve given them a step in the right direction for a solid accounting career.”