Students prepare to ASCEND to successful accounting careers

Written on May 26, 2016

By Jennifer Rieman, CAE, manager, public relations

ASCEND Leadership ConferenceThere was an energy in the air last week at The Ohio CPA Foundation’s ASCEND Leadership Conference, and it stayed steady throughout the event’s three days. The 37 attendees, college students from across Ohio, were the definition of engaged – asking insightful questions of the speakers and panelists, exchanging business cards and LinkedIn invitations and taking diligent notes.

The second-annual ASCEND was geared to motivate and advance minority college students working to pursue their accounting degree and to prepare students for the CPA exam and life after college.

Students were exposed to a wide range of content, including advice on personal development, financial literacy and networking, to “day in the life” panels of CPAs working in public accounting and industry and recruiters from top employers.

During the public accounting panel discussion, Darci Congrove, CPA, managing director of GBQ Partners, LLC, advised students about developing non-technical skills.

“Interpersonal skills are a significant piece of growing your career,” Congrove said. “Your ability to develop relationships and grow those relationships is very important.”

She also addressed work-life balance, a concern for many young people interested in public accounting.

“Most firms will work with you to find a path that will allow you to stay,” she said. “Retention and talent are very important to all firms. As you demonstrate competency and commitment, the flexibility an organization has for you will increase.”

LaTrice Fitzpatrick, a student at Youngstown State University, had her hand up throughout the event. A former architecture major, she switched to accounting and hasn’t looked back.

LaTrice Fitzpatrick“I’ve been to a number of conferences – this one is more personal,” she said. “It’s easier to meet with recruiters. I also love the diversity. I’ve been sitting with people from different countries that speak different languages.”

Not surprisingly, the recruiting panel proved particularly popular with students. Recruiters from CMAX Advisors, Abercrombie & Fitch, EY and RSM gave practical career tips, including remembering to make eye contact when meeting with employers, researching a company beyond the ‘about us’ page on the company’s website and using LinkedIn effectively.

Students later had the opportunity to meet with employers from nine different firms and companies during a speed networking session arranged like a career fair.

“You guys are taking a great first step,” said Dan Persico, talent acquisition leader, RSM. “Some students haven’t had as much exposure to business professionals and firms. It’s important to have that readiness to have an adult business conversation.”

Shayna Chapman, CPA, CITP, CGMA, owner, Shaynaco LLC and Justin Linscott, CPA, CFP, CITP, CGMA, president, MDS CPA Review, emphasized the accounting major and CPA as a solid foundation for a variety of careers in business. Chapman owns her own CPA firm, is a restaurateur and is involved in real estate, while Linscott runs MDS CPA Review.

That message struck a chord with Fitzpatrick.

Accounting is business in a nutshell,” she said. “From listening to all of these panelists from different industries, I’ve learned that accounting is accounting across the board. As long as you understand that, you have the world in your hands.”

A gift to The Ohio CPA Foundation’s Annual Fund Campaign will directly support pipeline initiatives like ASCEND that support students on the path to the CPA profession. To learn more or make a contribution, visit or contact Jerad Wood.
ASCEND Leadership Conference

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