Providence, R.I.--For the second time in three years, a team of Providence College students has advanced to the national finals of the xTREME Accounting (xACT) competition.
Sponsored by global accounting and auditing giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the event will be held at PwC’s New York headquarters on January 8 and 9.
The PC team, dubbed “The Consolidators,” is led by Ann C. Montemarano ’12 (Malverne, N.Y.) and includes David J. Glaser ’13 (Westborough, Mass.), Vincent A. Travelyn ’13 (North Scituate, R.I.), Amanda P. Medeiros ’14 (Fall River, Mass.), and Philip M. Pin ’14 (Wilbraham, Mass.).
The group is coached by Dr. Christine E. Earley, professor of accountancy, who served as the faculty mentor, and Robert L. Burkhart ’04, the PwC mentor.
About 45 colleges participated in xACT competitions on their campuses this fall. Tapes of the winning presentations from each school, with the school’s name removed, were sent to PwC for judging by a national panel. PC will compete against the other four finalists--the University of California-Berkley, University of Texas, University of Washington, and Villanova University.
John R. Formica, Jr. ’81, partner in the PwC National Professional Services Group and PwC’s coordinator with PC for the competition, said judges were impressed not only with the content, but also with the quality of the presentations.
“Our national review committee indicated that this year’s presentations were some of the best they’ve seen and have really raised the bar for future competitions,” Formica said.
A real-world challenge
In xACT competitions, teams spend two weeks studying a business challenge that could occur in the real world. This year, they had to decide whether a fictitious company in the cosmetics industry should develop its own line of natural and organic cosmetics, or acquire a company that already manufactured such products.
According to Earley, the challenge required students to consider “the big picture about business risk” and apply general business principles as well as accounting principles.
Eight teams of five students each participated in the campus xACT competition at PC on November 7. Teams had 12 minutes each to present their solution to the problem and 10 minutes to defend it under questioning from judges. The teams were rated on critical thinking, teamwork, communications skills, and their ability to defend their positions.
Dr. Patrick T. Kelly, associate professor of accountancy and department chair, was pleased at the level of participation. Every accountancy faculty member served as a team mentor, and 10 PwC employees, including eight PC alumni, took part.
“For a school our size, eight teams is a lot,” said Kelly. “Our philosophy is student participation. I’m really impressed with the number of students who, for that two-week period, say ‘I’m going to get involved in this program.’
“It speaks to the quality of my colleagues and the quality of the students that we have. They really are willing to challenge themselves.”
Carol A. Hartley, C.P.A. and xACT coordinator at PC, described the excitement that built as teams worked on their presentations. The night before the campus competition, students prepared and rehearsed in Moore Hall until 11 p.m. Others worked in the Phillips Memorial Library and in Koffler Hall’s conference room and lab, she said.
“Having a co-curricular case competition like xACT allows us to further the development and transformation of our students into professionals,” Hartley said. “It extends the classroom beyond the confines of 150 minutes a week and four walls. It enables us to partner seniors with underclassmen and watch teams evolve, leaders develop, and sophomores step up and rescue in an awkward moment.”
PwC employees serving as judges were Paul F. Hanley ’86 and Gerard P. Maron ’91. Serving as team mentors from PwC, in addition to Burkhart, were Jeffrey D. Carlson ’05, Joseph T. Colagiovanni ’00, Walid I. Sukarieh ’03, and Jonathan H. Zinno ’06. Assisting Formica were PwC employees Ann Ulett and Caroline Carr.
Other PC accountancy faculty members taking part were Dr. Julia M. Camp, Dr. Chun Feng, C.P.A., Dr. Matthew J. Keane, C.P.A, Dr. Michael L. Kraten, C.P.A., and Judith M. Morse, C.P.A.
The top teams at each college received $1,000 from PwC and their faculty mentors received $500. Because of its selection as a national finalist, the PC team will receive an additional $10,000, to be shared among the five students, and Earley will receive $5,000, which will be donated to student activities within the accountancy department.
Second selection in three years
Earley said the students will make the same presentation in New York, but this time will be judged by PwC national leadership partners. The PC team was successful because of the professionalism and content of its presentation, she said.
“They all participated, two sophomores, two juniors, and a senior, and I couldn’t tell which ones were sophomores, they were that good,” said Earley. “They succeeded because of the overall high level of quality among team members and the polished presentation that they did.”
It was Montemarano’s third time taking part in an xACT competition.
“Being selected as a national finalist is a huge honor,” said Montemarano. “I have participated in the competition for three years and it is incredible that during my senior year, we were selected for nationals. I am so proud of everyone on my team and cannot wait to go to New York City in January.”
PwC has sponsored the xACT competition for 10 years. PC, which has participated for seven years, also qualified for the national competition in 2009.
“This is a big deal,” said Kelly. “When you look at the caliber of schools, our accounting program is very challenging. So I know our students can compete with other top programs. This is evidence of that. I’m really confident that our students can compete with anybody.”
A second trip to the finals in three years “is just a great testament to the school, the School of Business, the accountancy department, and the kids,” said Formica. “Some of the other schools, they’re big schools. To be able to be dancing with them is impressive.”
Earley agreed. “You’re in really good company when you’re on that list,” she said.