When a friend suggested that Jameisha Thompson ’13 consider switching her major from Psychology to Accounting, she admits she was skeptical at first.
“I thought, I’m not sure if this going to work because I’m not into the whole Wall Street thing,” Thompson recalled. Still, she followed her friend’s advice, and soon found it was a great choice because of her ability to work with numbers.
This past academic year, Thompson had an opportunity to learn more about the accounting profession and gain some field experience as part of a new program, designed by Dr. Evelyn McDowell and funded by a $20,000 grant from Nellie Mae Education Foundation. The Aspiring Accounting Professionals Program aims to help minority Accounting students succeed in the classroom and ultimately their careers.
Through the inaugural program, Thompson and 13 of her peers gained a greater understanding of traditional classroom concepts through focused tutoring and externships at participating host companies including EisnerAmper, Mercadien, KPMG and Covance. As a result of the program, students walked away with valuable contacts, confidence — and even internships.
“For our first year, we were fortunate to have truly wonderful students, mentors, and externship providers. The students were hard working, enthusiastic, and appreciative of the opportunity. The externship providers and mentors were so giving of their time and eager to share their experiences with future accounting professionals,” said McDowell, an associate professor of Accounting. “For me, working with everyone involved in this program has been one of the highlights of my life and an experience I think we all will treasure.”
After receiving an invitation to participate in the program, Dave Brown ’13 of Trenton, N.J., attended an on-campus networking luncheon in the fall where he met representatives from EisnerAmper. Later while applying for an internship at the firm, Brown sent his résumé and cover letter directly to Hayes Mac Arthur, partner for Human Resources, whom he had met at the luncheon.
“The luncheon definitely helped me connect to the right people. They knew who I was when I reached out to them for an interview,” Brown said. “At the lunch, they told us about the firm, the workload of interns. I realized that was something I wanted to be part of — that’s why I reached out to them.”
During the internship, Brown gained experience in processing returns, networking and writing skills. He’s been able to transfer those skills in his course week and to his current summer internship in the tax service department of Deloitte.
“The Aspiring Accounting Program has opened me up to new opportunities,” he said. “It’s definitely given me an advantage.”
Meanwhile, Eric Carter ’14 of Trenton took advantage of the program’s tutoring component and started to improve in his accounting classes. He also shadowed professionals at Mercadien during his externship. There, he learned more about auditing and taxation, as well as develop skills he needed in order to succeed in the classroom and beyond. The externship opened the doors to a summer internship at the firm where he is working in the auditing department for the New Jersey Lottery.
“The program definitely improved my odds of getting the internship,” Carter said. The program also presented him with a professional development opportunity. He recently attended a New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants conference geared toward college students. There he learned more about various fields in accounting and business etiquette.
Thompson said she signed up for the program because she saw it as way to get experience instead of a regular internship that requires a minimum GPA. She was placed in a five-week externship at Covance where she learned about different positions and she developed a career goal. An employee at Covance noticed Thompson’s passion for the NBA and sneakers, and suggested that she consider becoming an accountant in one of those industries.
“Now I’m leaning toward an accounting career for a sports team or a company like Nike,” she said. “I never thought that kind of career existed until he brought it to my attention.”
This summer, Thompson is applying what she learned during the experience to her internship in the finance department for Babyland Family Services, a nonprofit in Newark.
“The program allowed me to become more confident as I pursue things that I want to do,” Thompson said. “I learned not to underestimate myself, and to go forth and do it.”