Thursday, December 8, 2016

UVI Accounting Students Take Lead to Create New Career Opportunities

The Executive Board.  From left to right: 
Jessica Taylor, Brencia Skeete, Shanisa Emanuel, Rohsaan Francis, Rae-Dawn Richardson, and Alphea Browne
Nascent National Accounting Association Reestablished at UVI ...

Alphea Browne, currently a senior accounting major at the University of the Virgin Islands, realized that there was a great opportunity for students involved with professional associations while she was at The Washington Center for Internships and Seminars last fall.  Surrounded by the bustle of professional networking, she remembered that just before she left St. Kitts for UVI, the president of UVI’s St. Kitts Alumni Association suggested that she join the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA).  She tried, but found the organization to be inactive.  So she reached out to one of her professors, Dr. Dion Gouws, who encouraged her to revamp NABA at UVI.
“When students become members of professional organizations, they gain access to all sorts of information about scholarships, internships and job opportunities,” said Browne.  “But you can’t join unless your college or university is an active member, and that puts you at a big disadvantage in terms of being nationally and internationally competitive.”
Browne reached out to people at NABA who explained that UVI would have to regain its title.  Determined, she recruited fellow accounting students Hakim Potter, Candice Samuel, Joya Gustine and Damien James to form the UVI Accounting and Business Professionals Association, which would complete the leg work.  It was a long and sometimes tedious process, but Browne and her team persisted and now the National Association of Black Accountants is an active organization at UVI once again.
The 2016-2017 NABA student leaders are President Jessica Taylor, Vice President Brencia Skeete, Treasurer Rae-dawn Richardson, Secretary Rohsaan Francis, and Public Relations Officer Shanisa Emanuel.
Back row, left to right: Dr. Dion Gouws, Medina Simon, K’Shana Bapttiste, Alphea Browne, Rae-Dawn Richardson, Le-Anne Angol
From Row, left to right: Brencia Skeete, Felicea Fontenelle, Rohsaan Francia, Shanisa Emanuel, Jessica Taylor, Hakim Potter
“I feel happy and proud of the achievement,” said Browne.  “But I’d feel even happier if I was sure that the organization will remain up and running after I leave.  I’m working with a freshman now in the hope that she will pick up an executive position.”  Browne continued, “It’s a lot of responsibility, you have to submit a report every six months, but it’s definitely worth it.”
NABA, which invites accounting students to be involved with the professional community, to create a group of their own and to build leadership skills, is not the only accounting organization on campus that offers development and networking opportunities.  The recently established National Association of States Board of Accountancy (NASBA) Student Center for the Public Trust (CPT) provides an interactive environment where ethical business behaviors and ideas can flourish. In order to maintain membership, student CPT members must accept responsibility for improving their community by completing one community service project every year.
The expansion of UVI’s accounting program this year includes a new Bachelor of Business in Accounting degree and a Master of Accounting degree.  Although both programs are offered through the School of Business, they focus primarily on accounting and prepare students to sit for certifications such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and others. 
With the growth of the accounting department has come not only a proliferation of professional associations, but also scholarships. The Virgin Islands Society of Certified public Accounts (VISCPA) recently presented two minority accounting scholarships from the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts (AICPA) for $3,000 each. 
Left to Right: Dr. Sakthiharan Mahenthiran, Rob Upson, Dr. Dion Gouws, Hakim Potter, Dr. Stephen Reames,and Sharon Levin
“We have so many dedicated and hard-working students in our new accounting programs,” said Dr. Dion Gouws, associate professor of accounting.  “UVI is certainly producing top notch graduates in accounting, and we look forward to more of our students receiving AICPA scholarships and other such achievement scholarships. We are all very proud of them.”
According to Dr. Gouws, the awards recognize hard work, which is an essential part of preparing for career readiness as accounting students learn mostly by doing.  “These scholarships are a great way to motivate competition and diligence,” said Dr. Gouws.  “The recipients earned their scholarships through many hours of dedication.”
Hakim Potter, this year’s recipient of the AICPA minority scholarship on St. Thomas, said that to him the scholarship felt like a great opportunity for change.  “Where I come from is not where I’m going to be,” said Potter.  “The scholarship is confirmation that change is possible.  Any accounting major should definitely apply for the AICPA scholarship.”
Dr. Sherri Levin, CPA and vice president of VISCPA on St. Thomas, is an educator committed to increasing diversity in the accounting industry.  “In addition to rewarding the students for their hard work and achievement, the scholarships are a great way to bring attention to the accounting major, and to encourage other UVI students to enter the field,” Dr. Levin said.
  Accounting degree programs are on the rise nationally, but large numbers of baby boomer CPAs are retiring, thus intensifying demand for accounting professionals, she said. “As older CPAs retire or leave the territory, it is important to have a younger generation of trained and certified professionals to fill the void,” said Levin.  “Our hope is that the scholarship recipients and other UVI accounting graduates decide to work in the Virgin Islands to serve the public need for professional accountants in the territory.”