Legislative / Regulatory

The best lessons aren’t found in a book

UB students at CPA Day. From left: Front row -- Elsie Davies, Stacey Morris and Danielle Sadowski. Back row -- Ryan Dempsey, George Wisniewski Jr., and Colin Rau.

What's more amazing than a bunch of CPAs ditching work during tax season to fight for their profession?

How about a bunch of accounting students fighting for a profession they don't even belong to yet?

Bear with me here while I revisit CPA Day in Annapolis. A record number of CPAs turned out in January for the annual event, which brings MACPA members and their legislators face to face to talk about the issues of the day.

There in the middle of all of them were six University of Baltimore accounting students, eager to get out of the classroom and get their hands dirty in the real world.

"They loved it," said Dr. Jan Williams, an associate professor of accounting at UB. "They were excited about the networking opportunities, the people they met, and the opportunity to apply what they've learned in the classroom to what accountants do and how the profession is impacted. We teach them this information in the classroom but they're often not sure how it's applied. This is an experiential type of learning for one day."

Williams and Dalton Tong, director of UB's Accounting Honors Program, have been exposing their students to the world outside of the accounting classroom for some time now. They've taken students to the offices of the AICPA, KPMG, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

This year, they took aim at Maryland legislation.

"It was a great opportunity for them to network with accounting professionals, but it also showed them the impact CPAs can have in the legislative process," Williams said. "Plus, it lets them know that once they graduate and enter the profession, they won't just be sitting behind a desk doing accounting."

That message came across loud and clear. Here's what the students had to say about the event:

  • "It's been great seeing how (CPAs) can work to influence legislation that is going to impact the profession," said Colin Rau. "It gives you that feeling that you can make a difference. Legislators need a CPA's professional opinion on how proposed legislation will impact the economy and our profession."
  • "There's only so much you can learn in the classroom," said Stacey Morris, "but by going out into the community and talking to people about real issues that affect us, you learn so much more and you can see the big picture."
  • "You have to get out there and apply what you've learned," added Elsie Davies. "You can read and study all you want, but if you don't apply it, it doesn't become effective."

Morris even saw her future as she walked the halls of the General Assembly. "I'll be entering law school next fall and I want to study tax law, so I hope to be right in the middle of this in a few years," she said.

We've been pleading with CPAs for years to take a more active role in the legislative process. The message boils down to this: Do you want to create the profession's future, or do you want to let politicians create it for you?

Six UB students understand that better than most CPAs, and all it took was a trip to Annapolis.

That tells me two things: (1) The future of the profession is in good hands, and (2) our best accounting students are doing more than learning how to become CPAs. They're teaching us how to be CPAs, too.



Bill Sheridan