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Accounting department program wins national award (Released: 1/12/98)

by Richard Veilleux, Office of University Communications.

Storrs, Conn. -- A program designed to introduce accounting majors at the University of Connecticut to real-life situations and practicing professionals has won a prestigious national award from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the American Accounting Association (AAA).

The Introduction to a Profession seminar series was introduced to UConn School of Business Administration accounting students on a pilot basis in 1993, and became a requirement for accounting majors in 1995. Held during the evening for five consecutive weeks, the seminars bring practicing CPAs to class to discuss the profession and work with students as they analyze a single company’s annual report. A different firm is studied each year.

The course, developed by Professor Richard F. Kochanek, won the AICPA’s Collaboration Award, and a $2,500 prize, which was presented during the annual AICPA Accounting Educator’s Conference, held last month in Chicago, Ill.

"Students graduating today face a vastly different (employment) market today than they did in 1965, when I graduated," Kochanek says. "Many firms have significantly limited the schools where they recruit. The successful job candidate must have a combination of high grades, outstanding communications and presentation skills, activities outside the classroom which include leadership positions and, most important, an understanding of actual business issues."

The new program addresses those factors, Kochanek says.

"This course provides our students with a real-world focus, fosters the development of partnerships between the accounting business community and the University of Connecticut, and gives the students some hands-on work with a financial analysis and annual report. The series has become one of the most important parts of the undergraduate accounting program" at UConn, Kochanek said.

The project, says Elizabeth Koch, manager of education programs for the AICPA, "exemplifies the qualities the committee strives to recognize: teamwork, collaboration and innovation."

So far, companies that have committed time and employees — and their annual report — to the course include Gerber Scientific Inc.; Dairy Mart and their independent public accountant, Arthur Andersen; and, most recently, Starter Co. and their independent public accountant, Ernst & Young. Accountants and other executives from a variety of firms, often UConn business school alumni, also have lectured or collaborated with students during the weekly, three-hour programs, which include 30 minutes for networking at the end of each session.

Besides regular course work, students enrolled in the program must complete a major paper that includes an overview of the firm being studied, an analysis of their financial statements, preparation and analysis of a firm’s balance sheets, cash flow and ratio analysis, and a stock market evaluation. At the last session, the host company conducts an annual shareholder meeting at which students ask management questions concerning company performance and future goals.