News from the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy

Why Choose Accounting?

(from left) ASAC Director Shawn Mauldin and Instructor Angela Pannell welcomed Clark Price to the classroom in January.

New steps are being taken this year to showcase accounting as a major to MSU business students. The Adkerson School of Accountancy and the ASAC Advisory Council are working together to communicate the advantages offered by an accounting degree.

“Nationally, enrollment in accounting schools is down,” shares Clark Price, chair of the Advisory Council’s Internal Issues Committee. “We wanted to look at how to avoid that at Mississippi State.”

While ASAC has not been entirely immune to the national trend in recent years, the picture is better here. Undergraduate enrollment has actually increased some over the past year, and enrollment in the graduate programs is the highest on record, thanks in part to adding online options.

Still, it is important to be proactive in recruiting students. A Wall Street Journal article, citing the Association of International CPAs, reports the number of U.S. students who completed a bachelor’s degree in accounting declined nearly 9 percent from 2012 to 2020 and that the slump has continued in 2021 and 2022.

“The demand for accounting majors is very high,” remarks ASAC Director Shawn Mauldin. “We are having a difficult time meeting employer demand.”

Price, an Audit Senior Manager at Deloitte, and his co-chair Paul Whitmire, Director-Global Strategic Finance at Asurion, thought back to their years as early business students and what drove them to want to pursue accounting. They agreed it would be helpful for students to hear what an accounting degree can offer from financial, lifestyle and experiential standpoints; to understand that while accounting is challenging, it is also rewarding.

“We wanted to make sure that we’d be presenting information in addition to the accounting curriculum, to give those students the facts they need to make these big life decisions about their futures,” notes Price.

Young Professional Advisory Council member Kellin Traxler, shown here with Shawn Mauldin and Visiting Assistant Professor Nick Cicone, was instrumental in crafting the presentation.

The committee, which includes Young Professionals in Accounting Council member Kellin Traxler, an Audit Senior at Deloitte, developed a PowerPoint presentation that could be shared with students in the Principles of Financial Accounting and Principles of Managerial Accounting classes, many of whom have not yet declared their majors. Students who excel in these courses also receive letters from the School encouraging them to consider accounting as a major.

“Kellin was instrumental in crafting the PowerPoint slides,” comments Price. “Because she’s younger, she’s closer to what sophomores at Mississippi State would understand and what would resonate with them from a presentation standpoint.”

The collaborative effort also included input from Mauldin, Advisory Council Chair Jan Lewis, committee faculty liaison Dr. Nathan Berglund and other professors.

The first presentations were made in January by a mix of Advisory Council members and younger alumni including Price, Traxler, Lewis, Chip Hoover, David Hopkins and Katie Hutson. Berglund presented it virtually for online students.

A slide in the presentation shows some of the employers that have hired MSU accounting graduates.

While the overall impact will take some time to be seen, there was one immediate indicator of success. A few minutes after the initial classroom presentation, Price and Mauldin had returned to the accounting suite when Trina Pollan, ASAC’s Academic Coordinator, approached with the news that one student from the class had already come to her to declare a major in accounting.

“We’re not necessarily expecting it to happen like that every time,” laughs Price. “But we are hoping our message resonates and elicits a response.

“We’ve tried to paint a full picture of all the opportunities that are out there – everything from small regional firms to the International Papers, the Amazons and other large global companies, as well as the larger public Big 4 firms, smaller regional public accounting firms and regional accounting firms,” he says. “We show, ‘Here are companies, not only where you might have the opportunity to work, but where Mississippi State accounting alumni do work. This isn’t some pipe dream. Former students who once sat in your exact seats are working at these companies.’ That’s really what we wanted to show them, that there is a world of opportunity in accounting, specifically in accounting at Mississippi State.”