2019-20 Accounting Newsletter

In This Issue:

New Things Going On With The Major

Message from the Department Chair

I hope you are all enjoying the fall. 

Ash Deshmukh

The accounting department is always humming with activity. We just held an Accounting Day. Public accounting and industry professionals from the region participated and provided guidance to the accounting students. This event provides great insights into working in the “real world” and enhances the soft skills of the students.

The accounting curriculum is changing and evolving. We also have reordered the sequence of senior-level courses to enhance the learning experience. The students have many opportunities to specialize in data analytics and the MIS department offers several innovative courses in this area. The accounting advisory board members, in every meeting, have stressed the importance of information technology and its relevance to the practice of accounting.

We offer our students many extracurricular activities, such as professional development, internship opportunities, and research. We graduated a career-ready batch of graduates in May, including our fourth batch of MPAcc students. All the successful students have developed a strong set of soft skills along with a solid GPA. The job opportunities for accounting graduates remain strong. Many of our undergraduate students have been placed with international and national firms. The MPAcc students continue to be in high demand. We also have added new faculty and will add more soon. Our faculty members have strong theoretical and practical skills and continue to do an outstanding job in the classroom.

If you have any suggestions, please send those to me.

Wishing you all a very successful fall semester.

—Dr. Ash Deshmukh, Chair, Accounting and MIS

Faculty Spotlight

Zachary Williams

Zachary T. Williams, CPA, CMA, M.P.Acc., Lecturer in Accounting

Where are you from, where did you attend school, what did you study?

I’m originally from Harborcreek, right down the road from Behrend, but I moved to Girard, Pennsylvania, when I was young. I spent my undergraduate years at Behrend and graduated with B.S. degrees in Accounting and International Business, along with a minor in Finance. As an undergrad, I was also a part of the Behrend Honors Program as well as the Schreyer Honors Program. Additionally, I have my M.S. degree in Professional Accounting, also from Penn State.

What was your work experience prior to becoming a faculty member?

I spent some time in the public accounting industry, focusing on individual and corporate tax returns, but I’ve also worked on several private company audits. I’ve also worked as both the controller of a local medical practice and as the accounting manager for an electronic circuit board manufacturer.

What is your favorite part about being a faculty member?

I enjoy the university atmosphere and getting to know students. Helping students work through exercises or even working with them on a one-on-one basis is very rewarding.

Do you have any advice for current students majoring in Accounting?

Accounting can be complicated, especially at first. Stick with it. Once things start to click, everything becomes much easier. Repetition is key for accounting. Also, always make use of the tutoring department if you ever feel you are falling behind; they are available to help make sure you understand the material and to help ensure you succeed in your studies.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In the colder months, I enjoy watching hockey. Time permitting, I like to get tickets to watch the Erie Otters, but if I can’t fit that into my schedule, I’ll watch NHL games on TV instead. In the warmer months, I like to travel.

Alumni Spotlight

Maggie Stepnowski  '12 

Maggie Stepnowski

Maggie currently works for CohnReznick LLP, where she is an audit manager. We asked Maggie to catch us up on life after graduation and find out if she has any tips to share with current students.

What did you study at Penn State Behrend?

I double-majored in Accounting and Management Information Systems, with a minor in Management.

If you could go back and change anything about your time at Behrend, what would it be?

Overall, I am very happy with the choices I made while I was at Behrend and would not change a thing!

Do you have any advice for current college students?

Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone! College and life after are all about trying new things. You will find that you will grow exponentially during your years at school and the time following graduation. And lastly, maintain your relationships with your college friends and professors. They are your first network and those relationships are invaluable.

Graduate Student Spotlight

Michaela Hodinko, ’19 B.S., ’20 M.P.Acc. 

Michaela Hodinko

Hometown: Erie

Major(s): Master of Professional Accounting

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received at Behrend?

The best piece of advice I’ve received at Behrend is “just go for it!” Several professors have said it to me in their own way and for different situations. Sometimes I just needed that boost of confidence for big and little things, whether it was applying for a job or volunteering to speak in front of an audience. I wouldn’t be where I am at today if I didn’t have that push out of my comfort zone.

What’s been your proudest moment at Behrend?

I had set a goal to graduate with my undergrad degree in three years and I had started college with no credits from high school. By working through the summers and adding extra credits each semester, I was able to reach that goal and graduate summa cum laude. I have never settled for “average” or “ok” work and it was so rewarding to walk down the aisle at graduation! I cannot wait to have that feeling again this year.

Why did you want to pursue the MPAcc program?

I chose the MPAcc program to continue my education and reach the 150 credits required for the CPA exam. I knew more doors of opportunity would open with hard work, a master’s degree, and a CPA license.

Undergraduate Student Spotlights

Alexis Burkhart

Alexis Burkhart '22

Hometown: North East

Major(s): Accounting and MIS

What are your hobbies/interests outside of school and work?

When I’m not working at a pet store or in school, I love to go to the beach to look for beach glass and put my feet in the water, especially during sunsets. I also like to hike and be outdoors. In addition, I help a troop of 4th graders as a Girl Scout co-leader.

Why did you choose Accounting?

I chose Accounting as my major because I took a class in high school that I really enjoyed and wanted to continue learning about it.

Do you have any current internships/jobs lined up? Where?

I had a spring internship at BKD that I continued through the summer and will go back to in spring 2020.

Paul Hoffman '20 

Paul Hoffman

Hometown: Erie 

What’s the best piece of advice you would give students at Behrend?

Do not be afraid to dream big, and remember dreams without goals are just dreams and they ultimately fuel disappointment; so, have dreams but have goals. To achieve these goals, you must apply discipline and consistently work hard work every day.

What do you find most interesting about the study of accounting?

Understanding how all the numbers work and what they mean is fascinating to me. When you realize how the numbers work together, you can paint a picture for how the company is doing. It creates a sense of accomplishment for us accountants.

What attracted you to Penn State Behrend?

I started my college career in State College for the first two years. As I continued to grow my business in Erie, I knew I either had to stop growing it and continue my collegiate career at University Park or come back to my home town and attend Penn State Behrend. With the guidance of Penn State Behrend administrators and as an entrepreneur, it was an easy decision. I picked growth of my businesses and coming back to Erie to attend Penn State Behrend. It has been one of the best decisions of my life.

What have you liked about Behrend compared to Penn State University Park?

My favorite part about Behrend compared to University Park is the community that Behrend has. Being at Behrend has allowed me to gain a more personal and everlasting connection with my professors and classmates.

Club Updates and More


Accounting major Margo McCullough ’19 represented Behrend at the Beta Gamma Sigma Leadership Summit in Chicago in November 2018. Margo graduated in May 2019 and is representing Behrend proudly.

Accounting intern Alexis Burkhart ’22 was a recipient of the WOW Award at BKD, where she interned in spring 2019. Alexis will return to BKD next semester for her second internship.


Accounting Club sponsors multiple events throughout the year. Check our Canvas Pride page to stay up to date with any new meetings or events!

Career Workshops 

In March 2019, the Accounting Club and the Academic and Career Planning Center presented a career workshop. This was available for all students and gave them insight about how to reach out to recruiters from the Career Fair and how to prepare for an interview.

Career Workshop

Senior Accounting Panel

On Tuesday, March 12, students were invited to a panel of senior accounting majors, who provided tips for scheduling and graduating on time. There will be another panel in the spring, so keep an eye out if you may be interested.

Behrend Business Games 

Accounting Club members Nevada First ’22, Alexis Burkhart ’22, Anthony Deppas ’20, and Brandon Kowalski ’21 (pictured below) represented the Accounting Club at the Behrend Games last spring. Participating against other business departments and clubs was a fun experience for all.

Behrend Business Games

CPA Exam Review

Last spring, Laura Copley of Becker – CPA Exam Review stopped by to talk to accounting majors preparing for the CPA Exam. This was a helpful presentation that included tips and advice on how to prepare for the challenging exam.

Welcome Week Picnic 

In August, the Accounting Club held its annual fall picnic. Members came to enjoy the weather, eat picnic-style food, and get to know their professors outside of the classroom. Students met one another and discussed the opportunities that Behrend’s Accounting program offers.

Welcome Week Picnic

Accounting Day 

On Thursday, September 5, the Black School of Business hosted its annual Accounting Day. Professionals from around the area were invited to talk to students about various aspects of accounting as a career. Students were able to sit in on panel discussions about what it is like to start out in public accounting and what a career can look like with an accounting background. There was a networking lunch afterward where students were welcome to ask any questions they may have had for our panel members. Planning is underway for the next Accounting Day in fall 2020.

Family Weekend 

On Saturday, September 21, Accounting Club members Anthony Deppas ’20, Hannah Kauffman ’20, and Brianna Keith ’20 volunteered their time to help with Parents, Families & Alumni Weekend at Behrend. Thank you for representing the club.

Family Weekend

VITA Presentation

Robert Patterson, lecturer in management, and Cheryl Bates, program director of Erie Free Taxes, hosted a presentation on October 8 to talk about the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Erie Free Taxes is a program offered by the United Way of Erie County.

Spring 2020: Accounting vs. Finance Kickball 

In spring 2020, there will be a rematch of last year’s kickball game between the accounting and finance faculty and students. Come cheer on the accounting team as we look to build off last year’s win.

Accounting vs. Finance Kickball Game

Join the Accounting Club! 

The Penn State Behrend Accounting Club provides opportunities for students to broaden their knowledge in the field of accounting. We encourage students to come to meetings not only to increase networking opportunities but also to further their learning experience in exploring career paths. The connections made within the club are lifelong and can really help with your career, so do not hesitate to join. If there are any questions, feel free to reach out to Dr. Justyna Skomra, assistant professor of accounting, at [email protected] or Brianna Keith, club president, at [email protected].

Accounting Club Poster