Industry professionals help shape Smeal accounting programs

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State Accounting External Advisory Board met early last month to consider issues confronting accounting educators in the Smeal College of Business.

The 20 board members include some of Penn State’s most successful alumni and friends, representing many of the largest employers in the accounting industry. The board meets twice each year to provide perspectives on the curriculum and other aspects of the Smeal experience that affect students’ preparation for their careers.

“The members of our advisory board provide a valued perspective on the curricular innovations, the current needs of employers across many industries, and the skill sets our students must build to meet those demands,” said Steven Huddart, chair of the Department of Accounting at Smeal.

The October meeting’s agenda included a report on the department’s competitive position relative to other top-tier accounting programs across the country and an update on sustainability-related project opportunities for all Smeal students.

“The members of our advisory board provide a valued perspective on the curricular innovations, the current needs of employers across many industries and the skill sets our students must build to meet those demands.”

-- Steven Huddart, chair of the Department of Accounting

Sajay Samuel, clinical associate professor of accounting, spoke to the board about the new curriculum and broader employment possibilities for students pursuing the corporate control and financial management concentration. In May, the first cohort of about 60 students will graduate with the concentration. The concentration provides preparation for careers in corporate accounting and eligibility to sit for the Certified Management Accountant exam, one of the key steps to earning the CMA designation.

Finally, Director of Career and Corporate Connections Meg Handley talked to the board about students’ transition to the workplace, including the particular strengths employers see coming from Smeal graduates and how students’ soft skills, especially writing and a professional mindset, can be further developed.

The newest members of the board are Eric Bocan, Class of 1996, senior vice president, corporate audit, at Fidelity Investments; Ron Sloan, Class of 1970, retired controller at U.S. Steel; Steve Patras, Class of 1995, partner at KPMG in Philadelphia; Mike Vierheller, deputy chief auditor for the American Red Cross; and, Chris Votta, a recently retired EY partner and past Penn State parent.

The board is chaired by Tara Weiner, Class of 1976, managing partner, greater Philadelphia region, Deloitte LLP.

Smeal offers accounting programs to students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, including a bachelor’s degree, a five-year program integrating the bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a one-year master of accounting program. The college also offers a doctorate in accounting.

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Last Updated November 18, 2013