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IMA Life: Leading a Student Chapter

By Evan R. Gallagher
August 4, 2015
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Higher education often presents students with challenging and unique leadership opportunities. My experience founding an IMA® student chapter is an excellent example.

 

For the past four years, I was a student at Kent State University. I transferred into the accounting program two years into my academic career, having studied pre-medicine previously. At that time, I was drawn to accounting because of the career opportunities, not understanding much more than that. I joined an existing accounting student organization to make friends and expand my network. At the same time, I observed two problematic trends in that organization. First, it was governed with a decidedly “same as last year” mentality, leaving little room for student innovation. Second, the organization gave disproportionate attention to public accounting firms and only the largest publicly traded companies in our region. It didn’t make sense to alienate so many companies from the recruitment process.

 

In May 2014, with the guidance of my professor and mentor, Dr. Wendy Tietz, I applied for and was awarded a scholarship from IMA to take the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam. Additionally, Dr. Tietz recommended that I consider starting an IMA student chapter. I researched the idea on IMA’s website and used the various resources provided. I was drawn to the ­leadership-enabling opportunities that IMA extends to students. With the help of several other student CMA scholarship recipients, we committed to building a student chapter of our own. We recruited 12 accounting students looking for more engagement with industry, drew up a charter, and registered the chapter with the University and College of Business Administration. Naturally, funding was a concern, and we’re deeply grateful to our parent chapter (IMA’s Akron Chapter) for its support in our endeavor.

 

Once the chapter was recognized, our activities began. Our members routinely attend Akron Chapter meetings, taking advantage of its excellent monthly speakers. Through a variety of grants and allowances, we were able to take seven members to the IMA Student Leadership Conference last year. This outstanding Conference was the highlight of the year.

 

I recently graduated and have passed the leadership torch to my colleague Charlie Wilson. Our chapter has accomplished a great deal, but there’s still much work to be done. I encourage them, as ambassadors of IMA, to communicate the value of studying financial management, managerial accounting, and strategic decision making to students, faculty, and community stakeholders. The profession has identified educational outreach as a key to solving the competency crisis, and IMA student chapters can and must be central to that endeavor. For me, the leadership and management skills I developed while founding a student chapter have been an amazing hands-on lesson. Combined with the CMA credential that I’ll be pursuing this year, I’ll go into the workforce confident in my abilities. Empowering students to define their own careers is at the heart of IMA’s mission, and our student chapter is doing just that.

 

Evan R. Gallagher is a member of IMA’s Akron Chapter. In September, he will be joining Deloitte’s audit practice in its Cincinnati office. You can reach Evan at egallagher92@yahoo.com.
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