Fall 2017 Accounting Newsletter

In this Issue:

Robots, clouds, and outsourcing – Reading the tea leaves


Welcome to the fall semester. 

The profession of accounting is changing and evolving. You may have heard of the threat of artificially intelligent autonomous software, or “robot accountants.” H&R Block is partnering with IBM Watson (the Jeopardy winner!) to find tax deductions. Some universities have deployed Watson to act as an instructor in introductory accounting courses. Like all professional careers, accounting has been forecasted to soon be automated and forgotten. I have seen many such forecasts in my life! What this means is, you have move upward in the value chain. You need to master not only the fundamentals of accounting but also accounting technologies.

That bring me to the new trends of cloud accounting. Have you heard of Xero? It describes itself as beautiful accounting software. It is entirely cloud-based and rapidly gaining market share. The advantages are you can do your accounting and auditing work from anywhere, anytime. But the work can also be easily transferred to your competitor or outsourced half-way across the world. On the other hand, the accounting job market is strong for the students who make wise choices and manage their learning. Join accounting clubs and seek leadership positions, find substantive internships and work hard, and choose electives that will help you in your career. We have graduated our second master’s class, and I am happy to report that we had 100 percent job placement, with many students landing their dream jobs. Watch your GPA, your bottom line, and have fun. 

I wish you all the best for this and the coming year. 

Ash Deshmukh Ph.D., Program Chair for Accounting and MIS

Spring 2017 Accounting Scholarship Winners! Congratulations!

Accounting Scholarship Winners: From left, Chris Martone, Nicole Overby, Meredith Snyder, and Andrew Buzzelli

From left, Chris Martone, Nicole Overby, Meredith Snyder, and Andrew Buzzelli

Faculty Updates

Chuck Brown and Linda Hajec

Dr. Chuck Brown, left, and Linda Hajec

All summer long, while students are sitting at the beach, all kinds of things are happening on campus. This summer, Dr. Chuck Brown, associate professor of accounting, was appointed associate director of the Black School of Business. He was interim associate director last year, and this summer it was made official when the former associate director, Dr. Greg Filbeck, Samuel P. Black III Professor of Finance and Risk Management, accepted the role as director. With the retirement of Mark Bestoso, lecturer in business, Linda Hajec, senior lecturer in accounting, was appointed to the position of associate chair of recruitment, retention and career advancement.

Newsletter Crew

We have a new member to the newsletter crew! Carrie Brunacini ’18 will be training with Nicole Overby ’17 this fall for the newsletter coordinator position with the Black School of Business.

Accounting Newsletter Crew, Nicole Overby and Carrie Brunacini

From left, Nicole Overby and Carrie Brunacini

What is accounting research? What are the benefits of accounting research?

Flora Dong, Accounting Newsletter Fall 2017

Research done by undergraduate and graduate students involves reviewing a large number of articles, analyzing, and synthesizing them, and then writing conclusions. Accounting practitioners also do research, but they are solving immediate problems for their clients or a group of clients. Academic researchers, however, use scientific methods such as collecting and analyzing data, laboratory experiments, mathematical models, and computer simulations. The accounting faculty do research in every area – financial accounting, tax accounting, cost accounting, accounting information systems, and auditing. The accounting professors undergo a rigorous training in these methods for four or five years in their doctoral programs. They are taught to first look at the problem, for example, Dr. Ash Deshmukh, professor of accounting, said that one of his favorite problems is "how do you catch fraud or even better how do you prevent one from happening, and even more importantly how do you know you are successful." The approaches he has used include mathematical models, psychological theories, developing and understanding new types of internal controls, among other things. 

Dr. Flora Dong, assistant professor of accounting, has had a paper accepted recently, titled “Do Firms Do What They Say? The Effect of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 on R&D Spending” in the Journal of the American Taxation Association. This paper addresses whether firms bring back money kept abroad, in tax havens due to tax incentives. Does it really result in domestic investment? This is a very fascinating paper on a complex topic. We talked to Dr. Dong about her research. 

When you started working on research as part of your doctoral program, how did you learn what you needed to do?

I was personally interested in tax, as I was previously employed at KPMG.

Do you specialize in any particular area of accounting research, or are the topics you choose pretty broad?

I am interested in tax policy evaluation, CEO compensation, and financial accounting of taxes. Firms that manipulate earnings are a special interest of mine.

Is your research sole-authored work or do you like to work with co-authors? Are there advantages to either approach?

I enjoy working with other colleagues and faculty on tax effects. This research paper was completed with the help of Jessica Zhao, professor of finance.

I heard you just had a paper accepted by a top-tier research publication. What was the paper about?

The research paper focuses on tax policy, regarding overseas earnings. A new policy is in the works for bringing back these earnings to boost domestic economies by spending the money, in turn, creating more jobs.

How long does it take to get a research paper published? Is that typical for all research papers or what might cause the duration time to be shorter or longer?

I started my research paper in the second year of my Ph.D. program. I realized having my paper rejected is normal, because writing is subjective to taste and preferences. I wrote two papers, with one still under review.

How much time do you spend doing research during the school year, or do you mostly do your research in the summer?

For tenure- track faculty at Penn State Behrend, 45 percent of work must focus on teaching, another 45 percent must consist of research, and 10 percent of providing services. It was difficult to continue writing the paper during fall and spring semesters, so during winter and summer breaks, I took to research and writing.

Do you think your research impacts your work in the classroom?

I am currently trying to implement ways to incorporate my findings in my tax classes, but have found that it is very applicable for students enrolled in advanced accounting.

Do you have any advice for a student who thinks they might like doing accounting research?

Read, read, READ! I advise students to read published papers, and look for ways to improve literature by critiquing the work. Pay attention to the news, and ask other people what they are currently working on. You can always ask coworkers.

Dr. Deshmukh indicated that accounting research can benefit all stakeholders in the financial reporting process. Accounting research can help determine how to present financial statements that give maximum information to the investors, what auditing methods should be used that are most effective and efficient, or how a new tax law will affect the individuals or corporations. Research keeps your professors intellectually vibrant and on the cutting edge of the profession, and your professors are expected to do research as part of the AACSB requirements. As you can see, your professors need to study more than you do! In any case, most of the faculty enjoy the challenge of exploring new accounting frontiers. 

One Year Later, Alumni Spotlight

Andrea and Lee, FA17 ACCT Newsletter

From left, Lee Weaver – pre-interview season – and Andrea Filbeck

We asked two of our alumni, Andrea (Kressler) Filbeck and Lee Weaver, if we could talk to them about their experiences now that they are out in the work world. Filbeck and Weaver are 2016 graduates of the MPAcc program.

Interviewer: So where are you living now, and where do you work?

Filbeck: Columbus, Ohio, working at Ernst & Young (EY). I started in September 2016.

Weaver: I'm in Burlington, Vermont, working at KPMG. I started August 2016.

Interviewer: There are a lot of ways to get the 150 credits you need to be licensed as a CPA. You both went through the MPAcc. What led you to the MPAcc as the best path for you?

Filbeck: I knew that long-term I would enjoy teaching at a college level, whether it was part-time or full-time later on in my career. Going through the MPAcc right away allowed me to get my 150 credits and the credentials needed for teaching at the same time! It was an added bonus that I was able to also start taking the CPA exams while in the MPAcc so I would be finished before starting my job.

Weaver: If I were to be honest, I kind of stumbled into it by having Chuck Brown as my intermediate accounting instructor. He asked me what my plans were after graduation and I told him about my law school aspirations, to which he replied that Behrend would begin offering the MPAcc in the semester after I was scheduled to graduate. I figured accounting was pretty neat, and that a three-year law program was a lot more of a gamble in terms of job placement than accounting, so I said what the heck. Now here I am…auditing…The major difference between my undergrad coursework and the MPAcc program was the concentration of accounting-related classes, which was a definite bonus. Having nothing but accounting classes really helped to make concepts stick and to allow me to connect the dots across different classes.

Interviewer: You were in school and working on your CPA exam during the 2015-16 school year. Knowing what you know now, would you still do the exam while you were in school?

Filbeck: Definitely! It was such a relief being done with the exams. I started at EY in September and did not have to worry about the exams the entire summer before. I was able to just focus on my move and decompressing before starting working for the rest of my life. I was able to pass two of the CPA exams the summer before the MPAcc, so as I was going through the job-hunting process, it was a great addition to my resume. Every time I talked to someone at a career fair they were always shocked (and impressed) that I had already passed two of the exams. It definitely gives you a unique edge on the competition.

Weaver: YES. I cannot emphasize the wisdom of that choice enough. I have coworkers who started two or even three years ago who still haven’t passed their exam. I know that the thought of choosing to study for another exam while you’re in school when you can just put it off until school is over seems appealing, but you’re wrong. It’s a terrible decision. You will never have more free time than you do now, regardless of what it may seem like now. Even when I was simultaneously going to school, working twenty-five hours a week, and studying for the exam, I still had more free time than I do now. When you’re working full-time, and in public accounting no less, your free time seems to vanish before your very eyes.

Interviewer: Let's talk about the first year of work. Anything good, bad, or unexpected you want to share?

Filbeck: My best experience was mostly just working with and getting to know my team! EY really encourages different team activities and provides a budget to each “counseling family” (group of people who work on similar clients) to plan events or dinners. For one of our events, we took a half day and spent the afternoon going on a Segway tour of Columbus! That was something I never would have tried on my own, and it was the first Segway experience for everyone on the team, so we had a lot of fun trying not to hurt ourselves. The various happy hours, dinners, events, etc. throughout the year give you a break away from work to enjoy time with the people you work with every day. My worst experience would be a negative client interaction I experienced, but the good thing is, in public accounting and especially as a staff, you have a lot of support from your team. The manager on my team ended up stepping in and was able to get the support we needed. I would say my first year was better than I had expected, including busy season. The key to that is having a team that you actually enjoy working with. We’re very focused on flexibility and making sure that we’re not sacrificing our personal lives for the sake of work hours. I really enjoyed the type of work I was doing and felt like I learned something every single day on the job.

Weaver: I really have no answer that isn’t an entire book of its own. One thing that surprised me about busy season was that I didn’t absolutely hate it the way I thought I would. Having a good team can make all of the difference in the world. There have been other engagements that I would’ve traded for our busy season client any day. I would rather work sixty-five hours a week on a good client with a good team than work 40 on a combative client with coworkers who all just sit there in silence for eight hours a day. 

Interviewer: OK, time for the speed round...First word that comes to mind when you hear the following…COLLEGE

Filbeck: Penn State!

Weaver: Ignorance is bliss

Interviewer: Andrea is definitely keeping the pride alive with that answer, especially living in the middle of Buckeye country…CPA EXAM

Filbeck: Done!

Weaver: Quick like a Band-Aid

Interviewer: WORK

Filbeck: Busy

Weaver: Meh

Interviewer: That's not even a word, Lee. Try again…WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Filbeck: Takes work

Weaver: Ask and ye shall receive (within reason)

Interviewer: PAYCHECK

Filbeck: Shopping

Weaver: Still not enough

Interviewer: I have to side with Andrea on that last answer...CO-WORKERS

Filbeck: Fun

Weaver: Second family

Interviewer: Aw, Lee, that's nice…VACATION

Filbeck: Relaxation

Weaver: Adequate

Interviewer: Um, Lee, you had three weeks of vacation this summer, in a row, and you didn't use all your vacation for the year yet. I think 'adequate' might be a little misleading…INTERVIEWS

Filbeck: Just lie!! Tell them what they want to hear!! OK – serious answer: Stressful

Weaver: Get a haircut and take your resume to ACPC at least twice.

Interviewer: Wow, both those answers take me back to your interviews two years ago. If I recall, Andrea, you needed a pep talk to go to your last interview because that had stressed you out -- and it was with EY where you ended up accepting an offer. And Lee, did someone tell you that we still talk about your hair? (Thanks so much to both of you for letting us interview you!)

So you want to be a CPA, but…

You've heard you need to get 150 credit hours to be licensed as a CPA in every state, but you aren't sure how to go about getting those credits. Your accounting undergraduate degree will require 120 credits. Here are some options for you to think about for getting the other 30, with a few pros and cons for you to consider, depending on your circumstances.

Get your MPAcc in one year after you complete your undergraduate degree. PROS: You are learning more of the material in depth that you will need to understand to be able to pass the CPA exam, plus you'll have a master’s degree by the time you are done. You can sit for the CPA exam as soon as you finish your undergraduate degree (and hopefully start to pass a couple parts before you even start your master’s classes), so while you finish your credits, you are finishing your exam. It looks great on your resume when you interview in the fall and can say you are already starting to knock those exam parts off. CONS: Master’s credits cost more than undergraduate credits.

Get additional undergraduate credits and earn a second major, a minor or certificates with the extra credits. PROS: It's less expensive than a master’s, and you still have something additional to show for all that work you did, plus you can work on passing the CPA exam at the same time. CONS: It's not quite a master’s, and those credits may or may not help you toward the CPA exam material. Get additional undergraduate credits in anything, maybe at a community college. PROS: It's the least expensive option, and you can work on passing the CPA exam at the same time. CONS: You have nothing extra to show for the effort, and it won't help you prepare for the CPA exam.

Regardless of how you decide to get those credits, keep an eye on the timing. If you decide nine semesters of undergraduate work will do the trick for you, consider taking off the spring that would have been your eighth semester and work an internship full time. Then come back and finish your last two semesters. The cost of the nine semesters doesn't change, but you graduate with a fantastic resume with a full-time internship included on it. If you are getting two degrees, consider letting one finish a semester ahead of the other so that you can get going on your CPA exam while you are finishing up your second degree.

There are a lot of variables, so no one answer is the perfect solution for everyone. If you are a current student or an alum thinking about the MPAcc program, talk to Dr. Ash Desmukh ([email protected]). If you are seeking more information on the CPA exam requirements, you can go to AICPA.org.

MPAcc Spotlight

MPAcc Spotlight: Nour Naif Al Zreigat

Nour Naif Al Zreigat

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Amman, Jordan.

Are you married/have kids?

Yes, I just got married in June.

Why did you choose Accounting, and why did you choose to go for the MPAcc?

My two brothers pursued the same major couple of years before I did and I learned from them that this major has a lot of potential in the long run. I chose the MPAcc program to satisfy the requirements to sit for the CPA examination and to enhance my accounting knowledge.

Did you have internships? Where?

I did not do any internships yet but I will have to sign up for one as a requirement for the MPAcc program. On the other hand, I have two years of experience working at Deloitte as an external auditor. I was offered a job directly after I graduated with my bachelor degree and had to leave the job to move to the U.S.

If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

I believe I am on the right track to achieve all of my plans. One thing I would’ve liked to do earlier is sit for my CPA examination as soon as I graduated but I had to finish my master’s first to satisfy the 150 credit hour requirements to sit for the examination. (Editor’s note: In PA, you can sit with 120 credits, but you must earn 150 credits to be able to receive the license; requirements are different in each state.)

Word of advice to Accounting students?

Beginnings are always hard. The more you learn the more you can offer in your career.

What are your future goals/ambitions?

As mentioned before I would like to sit for the CPA examination and hopefully get the chance to expand my accounting knowledge and experience by getting more certifications and finding a full-time position where I can utilize my previous auditing experience.

Alumni Spotlight

Bill Samluk

Bill Samluk

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Erie.

Are you married/have kids?

I’m married with three kids, ages 11, 13, and 15.

Why did you choose Accounting?

I chose it because of the variety of opportunities in the field. I stated that every industry has a high demand for accountants. I wanted a career that would allow me to grow intellectually, and develop transferrable skills. Accounting is a challenging but rewarding career.

Did you have internships? Where?

Alliance Health Network in Erie.

If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

I wish I would’ve earned my MPAcc right after receiving my B.S..

Word of advice to Accounting students?

“Do not be afraid to drive change within an organization.” I encourage students to develop their passion, and grow their intellectual curiosity. Never stop asking questions and looking for new ways to improve old processes. Take a systems analyst class at Behrend. Ask yourself “how can I help?” Build bridges with influential people, and always leave a legacy behind, everywhere you go. 

What are your future goals/ambitions?

I hope to not only earn the MPAcc, but to use the master’s to make a difference through teaching at Penn State Behrend.

The Accounting Club

The Accounting Club mission is to grow and develop accounting students and to create a strong foundation for a professional career path. This will occur through networking and mentoring opportunities with alumni, faculty, and fellow students, on and off-campus events, including a speaker series and panel discussions, and social events.

Upcoming Events:

  • October 11, 2017: Alternative Accounting Panel - 105 Burke
  • October 18, 2017: Happy Networking Hour - Erie Brewing Company
  • October 25, 2017: McGill, Power, Bell & Associates (MPB) - 105 Burke
  • November 8, 2017: CPA Panel - 105 Burke
  • November 29, 2017: Senior Panel and Elections - 236 Burke

Past Events:

Do’s and Don’ts

On January 18, 2017, we collected names of those who had paid their semester dues and drew a winner out of a raffle to win a prize. The winner was Chris Holmes. This meeting featured an experienced corporate accountant from Rick Weaver Buick GMC, Lynn Swain, speaking on the do’s and don’ts to successful interviewing. Swain answered and brought forward all of the secrets that students may be afraid to ask.

Cohen & Co.

Cohen and Company

On January 30, 2017, Abbey Seman, recruiter and HR specialist from Cohen & Co., gave tips on how to turn a scripted interview into “Interviewing the Interviewer.” She also presented suggestions on how to turn an internship into a full-time position. Abbey closed the meeting by giving information on different career opportunities and internships with Cohen & Co. as they have just opened a new location in Pittsburgh.


On February 2, 2017, PwC director Ray Mastre, manager DJ Lingelbach, and talent acquisition manager Kaitlin McDermott held a teleconference with five different schools regarding Big Data’s impact on the world, and on accounting and management information systems. Ray calls data the new oil. The meeting also provided information for students who may become potential interns and future associates. The following day, PwC held a Skype panel discussion with Ray Mastre, Kaitlin McDermott, Shivani Tailor, and Ann Marie Wempa. The panel explained what led them to PwC, lessons learned, advice to students, and where accounting is headed.

The Importance of Accounting and Management Information Systems

On February 13, 2017, the Accounting Club’s guest speaker was Justin Buschman. Buschman was appointed to the advisory board for the Black School of Business. As a professional in the business world, he works to highlight important factors that affect new graduates, and implement these aspects in the classroom. Buschman also stressed the importance and answered questions on Big Data.

Career Fair Preparation

On March 1, 2017, Courtney Steding, director of career services at the Academic and Career Planning Center, paved the path to success for the members of Accounting Club. Steding answered questions regarding basic business attire, resumes, and stressed the importance of asking recruiters questions.

Wiley CPA Excel

Wiley CPA Excel

On March 22, 2017, a representative from Wiley held an informational presentation regarding the CPA exam. The students learned about new changes to the exam, study techniques, and an overview of the course materials website. At the end of the seminar, a drawing was held for free study materials and the winner was MPAcc graduate, David Franz ’17 (shown above).

Becker Professional Education

On September 6, 2017, Laura Copely explained the benefits of choosing Becker as a course review for the CPA exam. Copely showed various tips for test taking and answered questions on “fast pass” studying materials.

BKD Corporate Day

BKD Class Visit

On Thursday, September 7, the accounting firm BKD CPAs & Advisors visited the Black School of Business for the first Corporate Day of the 2017-18 academic year.  Kaley Morgenstern ’13, CPA and Steven Gresh, ’11, CPA  (pictured above) visited ACCTG 371 Intermediate Accounting I taught by Dr. Justyna Skomra, assistant professor of accounting, to talk about employment and internship opportunities with the firm, to explain the benefits of working in public accounting, and to answer questions.  Morgenstern and Gresh explained that to land that first internship or full-time job, students need to maintain a professional attitude and appearance, be successful academically, and present a resume that highlights their career strengths.  Some other tips include having an outgoing personality and to “be memorable – in a good way – during the first five minutes you meet a recruiter at either the career fair or in an interview,” said Morgenstern.  BKD, like many accounting firms, hires most all of its full-time professionals through its internship program.  Therefore, they strongly suggest that students interested in public accounting should complete an internship during their junior or senior year.  BKD’s Erie office plans to hire as many as six interns this spring to meet its tax and audit client demands.  Finally, they suggest that students should have a plan to earn the 150 credits of education needed to meet the CPA licensure requirements prior to becoming a full-time employee.  Cheryl Jones, BKD’s primary recruiter for the Erie and Pittsburgh offices, was also at the Black School talking with students in Clark Café throughout the day.  She mentioned that students should have a location preference when they apply for internships or full-time jobs because each office has specific hiring needs.  If students are interested in employment opportunities in the Erie or Pittsburgh offices, they can reach out to Jones at [email protected].  Black School of Business Corporate Days provides an opportunity for an organization to have high visibility and access to our students to promote their business and the employment opportunities for our students.  It’s a win-win for our students and the organization!  If an organization would like to consider taking part in a future Corporate Day, they should contact Melanie Deppen, professional development coordinator, for more information.  Melanie can be reached at [email protected].

Department of Defense

Loretta Unger

On September 11, 2017, team leader and auditor, Loretta Unger (shown above), from the Inspector General Office, presented information about the Department of Defense. The mission statement of the Inspector General Office is to “provide independent, relevant, and timely oversight of the DoD.” About 2.5 million military personnel and nearly 718,000 citizens are employed by the Department of Defense. Unger provided job summary statistics of the auditing position at hand. At the end of the presentation, Unger closed with resume and interview tricks.




HBK on Campus

Members of HBK on campus for Corporate Day.

On Thursday, September 19, HBK was on campus to meet and greet students and talk to our accounting majors about various paths they could take within their firm and in public accounting in general. A member of their wealth management group attended to talk to finance majors that may want to take that path, also. A special thank you to former faculty member and HBK principal Jim Voss; Accounting Board of Advisors member, alumnus, and HBK principal Joe Ledford; alumnus and HBK principal Keith Mitchell; along with alumni Ty Sheehan, Michael Gregory, and Zach Allegretti.



Business Blitz

Business Bltiz

The 2017 Business Blitz was hosted in McGarvey Commons on September 12. Many of Behrend’s alumni and other professionals of different perspectives, career paths, and backgrounds attended. Students were given one-on-one attention and received constructive criticism of their elevator speeches and resumes. Thank you to the alumni and faculty who participated!

Senior Spotlights

"I sort of know what I'm doing, graduation dog

We would like to take this time to give a brief shout-out to the senior class that will be graduating in December 2017, and the seniors who will graduate May 2018. Here is a big thank you to the professors who answered emails after 9:00 p.m., the friends who encouraged you to stick with it, and the employers who took a chance to help us grow as baby accountants.

“Don't be afraid of fear. Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self.”

Below are companies that our senior class interned with:

  • Bank of America
  • BKD
  • BST & Co.
  • City Hall of Jamestown
  • Deloitte & Touche
  • Department of Finance & Accounting Service
  • Erie Community Foundation
  • Erie Contract Interiors
  • Erie Insurance
  • Erie Management Group
  • Junior Achievement
  • Kingdom Tax Services
  • Kreider & Co.
  • LandPro Equipment
  • Logistics Plus
  • LPLS
  • Mass Mutual
  • Northwest Bank
  • Northwestern Mutual
  • One Main Financial
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Primary Health Network
  • Private Equity
  • PPG
  • Schaffner Knight & Minnaugh
  • Scott Enterprises
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Universal Tooling Corporation