Students, staff benefit from Internal Audit internship program

January 09, 2013

The internship program at the Office of Internal Audit provides numerous benefits for the remarkable students who participate each year. And after five years, officials from the unit have discovered they get a lot out of the experience, as well.

Internal Audit performs risk-based audits throughout the University. Audit teams review, test and evaluate the financial, electronic and operational controls throughout Penn State. Interns get a first-hand look at the unit’s operations. Director Dan Heist said participants play an integral role in the audits they are assigned to. 

The program has gotten more robust over the years. It started off as a summer-type program with one intern. Today, there are two interns and they both supplement the full-time staff with practical audit work.

“I was surprised how much they let us do,” intern Joe Macrina said. “We do audit work by ourselves. It’s nice to learn things hands-on, and be able to ask questions whenever needed.”

Interns are given access to working papers and use them like staff. They are fully integrated into the office’s operations. Nathan Cooke, senior auditor and intern supervisor, identifies projects like inventories and financial statements that the interns can work on.

The interns are essentially signed on as wage employees, Cooke said, and are treated like any other employee.

“We do have some restrictions on access,” he added. “We give them access to what they need to get the job done.” 

Other areas the interns work on include compliance work and “continuous monitoring,” which is data mining in search of anomalies, and investigating those areas. These are projects that the students are interested in and are prepared to tackle. 

“I’ve had other internships that focused on taxes and external audits … and publicly traded companies and doing their financial audits,” intern Greg Mullen said. “This is my first time experiencing an internal audit department. So, it’s been very interesting seeing the third side of accounting. And looking to improve my own university … that’s pretty cool, too.”

Heist said he is especially impressed with the interns’ professionalism. They show up ready to go and typically interact with the staff like a fellow professional. “They step it up and it’s been very rewarding,” he said 

A lot of that can be attributed to the program the interns are recruited from -- The Master of Accounting (MAcc) at the Smeal College of Business. The five-year program prepares students to become certified public accountants. The Internal Audit staff cannot be more impressed with the students they’ve worked with from MAcc.

“I would like to follow their careers,” Heist said. “Because I wouldn’t be surprised if they turn out to be superstars down the line.” 

The success of the interns and the professional relationship they build with the Internal Audit staff uncover a list of benefits for both parties. Students enjoy real world experience and see how an internal auditing operation works first hand. It also connects Internal Audit staff to the student body and gives them an appreciation for the work they do.

“People wonder, ‘Student-centered at F&B, how can we do it?’” Heist said. “ Some units have a lot of opportunities, but we figured this is one thing we can do to be student centered.”

It gives the staff a feel for what’s happening on campus. Staff members learn what is important to students, and Heist pointed to THON as the greatest example. 

“About 75 percent of our intern candidates have THON somewhere on their resume,” Heist said. “The passion and commitment is neat. It’s well-placed priorities and I just marvel at it all the time." 

Having the interns in the office also provides managerial experience for staff. Heist describes his office as a flat organization -- staff, two managers, and a director.

“Our staff doesn’t get the opportunity to supervise and act in a managerial way,” he said. “By bringing in these interns, it helps develop that opportunity for management skill development.”

Each year, the payback becomes greater: Building more relationships, continued student centeredness, and getting quality, practical work from stellar accounting students.

Last Updated February 07, 2013