Becoming Better StudentsBy
When I arrived at Saint Leo University in fall 2008, there was no organization directly serving the accounting majors. During that semester, a few students approached me and asked if we could start an accounting club. I told them they would need to go through the process of reestablishing the Pacioli Accounting Club, which had been in existence and apparently had fallen by the wayside years before I arrived. The students were very excited, and by the end of the spring 2009 semester they had reestablished the Pacioli Accounting Club, a recognized organization under the Student Government Union at Saint Leo University.
One thing I quickly realized as I taught my students in various lower- and upper-level classes was that while they knew something about the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) and the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) license, it appeared they knew nothing about IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) and the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification. Since I’m a CMA, I decided to tell them about the importance and benefits of becoming IMA student members and get them to know IMA.
In fall 2011, the officers of the Pacioli Accounting Club decided to research the IMA website to check out the benefits, and they were very excited to see that IMA offered an annual Student Leadership Conference (SLC). They approached the Student Government Union, which provided most of the funds for them to attend IMA’s 12th Annual Student Leadership Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, in November 2011. Since then, the executive board of the club has attended all the conferences to date, and plans are in the works to attend the upcoming one in Houston, Texas.
I must admit that I initially thought the Student Leadership Conferences were only for students. But after attending IMA’s 13th Annual Student Leadership Conference in San Antonio, Texas, in 2012, my students convinced me that not only would I enjoy the conferences, but I would be able to gain valuable insights and glean benefits I could take back to the University that would assist other students. They were correct! You could say the students became the teacher. I decided then that I would use a portion of my annual faculty development fund to travel to the next conference in Charlotte, N.C. I’ve been attending ever since and look forward to each upcoming conference.
I can say without reservation that over the past six years my students have been attending these conferences, they have matured into better students and individuals because of the experiences and the information they’ve attained. They are among the most respected students on campus and have used the spotlight not only to promote IMA and the CMA certification, but to host exceptional student meetings and activities on campus for all students at Saint Leo University. In fact, after returning from each SLC, the executive board of the Pacioli Accounting Club has hosted meetings in which they provide club members and the University information about opportunities they receive from participants at the conferences.
Before the students attended their first SLC, most of the activities the Pacioli Accounting Club engaged in focused on community service in a very basic way. While this is important, most other clubs on campus do similar activities. Because of IMA’s Student Leadership Conferences, the Club’s activities have been geared to helping students become more professional in their conduct in school, in their jobs, and in their personal lives. As such, the activities include hosting meetings on campus where professionals from various areas of industry and government present to the students. These include public accounting firms, industry and governmental professionals, and representatives from various organizations that educate the students on the benefits and importance of getting certifications such as the CMA.
Previously, meetings were held every other Wednesday during the fall and spring semesters. In the past few years, because of the request from public accounting firms and other organizations, including those that provide review courses for the CPA and CMA examinations, the Club has been hosting weekly meetings, which are well attended by both accounting and nonaccounting students throughout Saint Leo University.
BECOMING AN IMA STUDENT CHAPTER
During the spring 2014 semester, the executive board of the Pacioli Accounting Club decided to complete the appropriate paperwork and apply to become an IMA student chapter, which we did in fall 2014. This was the best thing that could have happened to the Pacioli Accounting Club. It was quite evident that once the Club became an IMA student chapter, the students started being more intentional in the type of programs we held as they realized we would need to report our activities to an internationally recognized organization. Therefore, the quality of the meetings and programs we hosted improved tremendously.
This was quickly recognized throughout the university as other organizations on campus wanted to partner with the Saint Leo University IMA student chapter (SLU IMASC) to host programs and engage in various activities. Additionally, faculty in the Donald R. Tapia School of Business reached out to the students to assist with various other important activities, such as the annual International Business Conferences hosted by the School of Business. Each year the members from the SLU IMASC are asked to help with registration and other important activities. Another notable activity SLU IMASC is asked to participate in each year is the Annual Business Week hosted by the School of Business. And there are many other activities in which the student members participate, such as helping students find internships, scholarships, and job opportunities.
A POSITIVE IMPACT
I also can say without reservation that the annual IMA Student Leadership Conferences have had and will continue to have a significant positive impact on the IMA student chapter at Saint Leo University because of their quality programs. Additionally, as these conferences continue to provide the opportunities for students to network with other students and professionals from various industries, Saint Leo University’s students will continue to be beneficiaries. Then their employers will benefit as the students will be able to bring to their jobs some of the skills they learned at the conferences and in their activities as part of the IMA student chapter functions.