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​Kelsey Van Decker '15 gets advice from guest speaker John R.
Formica, Jr. '81 of PwC. Below, students gather for the Introduction 
tthe Profession class. 

Accountancy majors learn about careers in Introduction to the Profession course

Halfway through their four years at Providence College, accountancy majors come face-to-face with the future in a course called Introduction to the Profession.

The required course, which students take during the first semester of junior year, brings accounting professionals, many of them alumni, to campus to talk about career choices. Students hear from representatives of national and regional public accounting firms, including PwC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, and McGladrey; government, public service, and law enforcement organizations; corporations, finance, and internal audit firms; tax practitioners; and insurance companies.

This academic year the course was team-taught by Dr. Patrick T. Kelly, associate professor of accountancy and department chair, and Dr. Matthew J. Keane and Margaret P. Ruggieri, both assistant professors of accountancy. It was introduced about eight years ago under the direction of Carol A. Hartley, assistant professor of accountancy, and has proven valuable, said Kelly.

“The students may be interviewing for jobs later in the school year,” said Kelly. “The course is beneficial in this procress: The guest speakers see the students they might be interviewing, and the students see that when the presenter from an accounting firm looks back, his or her story is not too different from their own stories.”

John R. Formica, Jr. ’81, partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, has been a participant in the course from its inception. He called it “an outstanding way” for students to learn about career opportunities from experienced professionals.

“By listening to career stories and being able to directly interact with professionals, students have a chance to explore potential career paths that might fit their unique interests and passions,” said Formica. “By being more informed about their own choices, they have an advantage as they begin their careers and enter the workforce.

“I appreciate the opportunity to share my professional story and what it’s like to work in public accounting,” Formica added. 

Business dress and punctuality


The one-credit course met six times during the fall semester in the new Ruane Center for the Humanities. The first speaker was Eileen Wisnewski, senior associate director in the College’s Career Education Center. Each year, Wisnewski opens the class with a discussion about what the center offers and how students can best prepare for their careers.

“This year Dr. Kelly wanted to extend the session to include a full résumé workshop in addition to our career preparation overview,” said Wisnewski. She said the course has “consistently demonstrated its powerful impact on students. 

As a requirement of the course, the 72 students prepared questions for the speakers in advance, maintained “reflection journals” on their impressions, and submitted two reflection papers during the semester. Punctuality was emphasized, along with communication skills and proper business dress. Students wore name tags so that speakers could call them by name during the question and answer session.

Sessions were videotaped so students could review them later.

“I found it extra helpful to hear about all aspects of the accounting field. There were some aspects I’d never even heard of, like government and nonprofit accounting,” said Charles Groeschke ’15 (Kinnelon, N.J.), who is minoring in finance.

“Hearing the speaker’s background and how they got where they are is helpful. You get to see how what we learn in our accounting classes is programmed into aspects of the field,” he added.

Groeschke hopes to work for a regional or Big Four firm one day.

Alumni return as speakers 

Many guest speakers are alumni. This year, Deacon Patrick Moynihan ’99G & ’12Hon., president of The Haitian Project, which runs a free boarding school for children in Haiti, attended a session. He invited students to consider teaching business at his school in the future. 

Lori A. Tellier ’84, an investigative auditor with the financial crimes unit of the Rhode Island State Police, was a guest speaker in the course in 2005 and has been back ever since.

“I enjoy sharing my work experience with the students,” said Tellier. “Although right after graduation I followed the traditional route of working for one of the larger accounting firms, and was hired away by a banking client, I was most fortunate to find my niche in law enforcement.”

Tellier works with state police detectives to investigate complicated financial crimes and public corruption. She gathers evidence, conducts interviews, prepares written reports, and presents cases to grand juries and the attorney general’s office for prosecution.

When she talks to the students, she brings on a PowerPoint presentation detailing one of her recent investigations.

“I like to let female students know that it is possible to have a rewarding career with an accounting degree and to be a wife and mother,” added Tellier.

Career development addressed 

Sean P. Newth ’97, senior vice president for State Street Corporation, also first began work with a big public accounting firm, KPMG, first working on audits, then to interpreting and advising on accounting practices. Now he runs an accounting policy team for a bank, setting guidelines on the application of accounting rules. 

It’s always a pleasure to be back on campus interacting with students and faculty, Newth said.

“I tried to provide some visibility into the various options that the accounting profession can provide, coupled with some of the choices that I have made over the years and where that led me,” said Newth. “I also tried to pepper in some of the key action items that I believe have enhanced my career development.”

Alexandra Carey ’15 (Norwood, Mass.) said she will probably seek a position with a Big Four accounting firm. “I think it’s the variety it offers. And you can specialize from there,” she said.

Carey said the course was “definitely helpful. I came in not knowing much about career paths. This class really helped me learn about the profession.”

The model has been so successful that the Department of Finance introduced a similar course this semester for finance majors, Introduction to the Finance Profession. It is taught by Dr. Vivian O. Okere, professor of finance and department chair; Paul J. Maloney, assistant professor of finance; and Alli Nathan, associate professor of finance.

 

— Vicki-Ann Downing​​​​​​​​

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