Spring 2018 Accounting Newsletter

In this issue:

Looking Beyond the Annual Report and Financial Statements

I hope you are having a productive spring semester!

The accounting profession is centuries old, but will it outlast this century? The experts have made many predictions and with the relentless march of technology, we have seen some amazing changes in the profession. Let us apply the new developments to the annual report. Social media now probably reveals more data about the corporation than annual reports, and it is also timely. As big data tools become commonplace and reach the hands of shareholders, you will see more focus on such tools in the future. Toyota Corp. tracks such problems in vehicles by monitoring customer complaints on social media. The company claims that this method allows it to stay ahead of the developing problems. The discussion moves toward the narrative of the organization rather than financial numbers in the annual reports. 

So, what changes for the educators? We need to start teaching about cloud computing and big data and focus more on digital tools. Reports issued by international organizations note that professional accountants have skills gaps in these areas. However, that does not mean we can ignore our core areas. Corporate reporting is evolving and now incorporates more social and environmental reporting, like carbon emissions testing. The coming age will test our abilities to learn and adapt. My advice to students remains the same: join accounting clubs and seek leadership positions, find substantive internships and work hard, and choose electives that will help you in your career. Watch your GPA - your bottom line - and have fun.

All the best,

Dr. Ash Deshmukh
Department chair and professor of accounting

Catching Up with our Retirees – Dr. David Doran

Dr. David Doran

We asked Dr. Doran, associate professor emeritus of accounting, to catch us up on life in retirement after decades spent in the accounting classroom, doing research, and writing textbooks.

What do you miss most about Behrend?

What I miss most since retirement is interacting with the vast majority of Behrend’s students, faculty and staff. I have been keeping myself busy mostly with family stuff. My wife, Mary Anne, and I still live in Erie and are very fortunate that our three children and two grandchildren also live here.

Tell us about what you do for fun.

I look after our cherished granddaughters, ages 3 ½ and 1 ½, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and need to spend part of Mondays and Wednesdays resting up for it. We have not traveled much in the past few years but hope to do so in the near future after Mary Anne retires, hopefully this summer. I enjoy fishing, riding my motorcycle, and playing golf. In May 2017 I had hip replacement surgery and continue with prescribed physical therapy. I enjoy going to the gym three times a week.

How have you stayed active in the field of accounting?

Other than keeping my PA CPA license current, I have not been professionally active. The only exception might be preparing income tax returns for family members. As such, I am hesitant to guest lecture an accounting class addressing a cutting-edge topic but would enjoy teaching something basic.

We miss Dave on campus but are always happy to see him and Mary Anne at events around campus and around town. We're sending our best wishes that Mary Anne can join him in retirement this summer!

Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Justyna Skomra

Dr. Justyna Skomra

Assistant Professor of Accounting

Background Information:

I was born and raised in Poland. I received an M.S. in Finance and Banking from Warsaw School of Economics in Poland. After graduation, I moved to the United States and attended Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) where I graduated with a B.S. in Accounting. I worked for nine years in industry before starting my Ph.D. program at Kent State University in Ohio. 

What made you want to become a professor?

During my accounting program at CCSU I was taught by wonderful professors who noticed my passion for accounting. They strongly encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D. in accounting, but I was not fully convinced that this was the right career path for me at that time. Growing up I saw myself working in the finance/accounting department for multinational corporations. However, as my career at Fortune 500 companies progressed, I started thinking that this is actually not as personally fulfilling a job as I was expecting. I remember how much I enjoyed tutoring students and the overall academic environment when I was a student. Since I received so much encouragement from my former accounting professors, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. program.

What is your favorite part about being a professor?

I enjoy the daily interactions with the students. It is such a rewarding and fulfilling experience to be able to share my passion for accounting with prospective accountants and to contribute to their successful careers. Students entering accounting programs have a lot of misconceptions about the profession, and I would like to make them overcome their fears with respect to accounting. In my personal opinion, accounting is one of the most exciting and rewarding fields. It provides challenging problems to deal with, many opportunities for growth, and can lead to prosperous careers. However, as much as I spread my enthusiasm for accounting, I admit that it is not for everyone.

How would you describe your teaching style or method?

My goal is to make each class as interesting as possible to raise students’ curiosity and engagement in the course. I want my students to come to the classroom ready to discover new material and explore it further with my help. At every opportunity I utilize interesting real-world examples to get students’ attention. The fundamental principle of my teaching philosophy is that students develop their knowledge and skills better when they actively participate in the learning process. Their engagement is an essential part of my teaching.

What do you like most about Behrend? What are you looking forward to?

I love the collegial atmosphere in the department and all the support I receive from other faculty members. I also think that engaged students make this a unique place to work. Every day I am even more convinced that I made the right decision to start my academic career here at Behrend. I also appreciate all the research opportunities offered by the university, which will help me conduct more research in the audit and financial reporting area.

What is your favorite topic to research/work on?

My research is focused on topics related to audit quality, auditor regulation, corporate disclosures, and corporate governance. I enjoy working on the projects, which are related to my prior experience in the industry.

What do you like to do in your free time?

My two daughters occupy most of my free time. I love cooking for them, traveling, biking, and reading books.

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

Work hard and do not procrastinate taking your CPA exam! Take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities Behrend offers to make your resume stand out from other graduates.

Senior Spotlights

Justin Araki ’18

Justin Araki

Senior Justin Araki is from Utica, New York, and will be graduating in May with a degree in Accounting. Justin is nontraditional student, having joined the Marine Corps in 2002 and subsequently serving two tours of Iraq. Araki lived in Scotland from 2013-2016, but he is now settled in North East, Pennsylvania. He and his wife have three children (and two cats and a dog), and he still found the time to be a founding member of the Presque Isle Rugby Football Club.

Araki has done a lot of preparing for life after Behrend. He's had two great work experiences. He participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program with the United Way. This is part of an accounting class that he took as an elective in which students prepare tax returns for seniors and low-income households. Araki said that working within the community with a variety of clients with different needs gave him a lot of experience interacting with people and a great sense of accomplishment in helping individuals navigate their tax returns. It also provided practical experience in completing tax returns. His second accounting work experience is with Penny Qualls & Co. Araki is doing write-up work, payroll, and bank reconciliations for various clients, and he is getting hands-on training in the daily tasks required of staff accountants. It also has given him direct contact with local business owners and the insight on how they manage their businesses.

Araki is planning on attending the Master of Professional Accounting program here at Penn State Behrend starting in the fall 2018 to complete the 150-credit hours required to be a licensed CPA. He will also be sitting for the CPA exam this summer and is actively seeking internship and employment opportunities for summer and fall. We asked Araki what advice he would give to students as they are navigating their own college career. He said, "Life is nothing like a race. Everyone starts at different places, at different times, and everyone finishes the same way. Just try to enjoy yourself." We're thinking that's good advice for everyone!

Jenna Starr ’18

Jenna Starr

We’re putting the spotlight on Jenna Starr, a senior Accounting and Finance major from Gibsonia, Pennsylvania. Starr said that she had always wanted to be a vet, but she decided that nursing would be a better option in the long run. After completing her first-year courses, she just realized she wasn’t cut out for the hands-on aspect. Since she knew she had always been good with numbers and organization, she started looking more into business and decided on accounting and finance quickly after that. Starr plans to graduate in December 2018 and has had some great work experiences while she’s been at Behrend. 

Starr had her first internship two summers ago at Northwest Bank, where she went through a condensed management trainee program. She started as a teller, then went on to senior teller training, customer service representative training, management, and then spent time with the commercial lenders. She was even able to go with a branch operations officer when a new branch was opening, to help assure the branch was getting set up properly.

Last spring, Starr was a tax intern at BKD. What was it like working in an actual accounting firm? “I learned what to expect from public accounting, and I also learned that I didn't want to pursue the tax side of accounting. Tax is nothing like the tax class. You can look up information as you are working, and you have a ton of resources at your disposal. Even though I do not want to pursue tax directly, I have learned that it is important to at least understand tax. I was able to work on my own assigned tax returns and was given the same responsibilities as associates.”

This spring, Starr is an audit intern at HBK, working around 25-30 hours per week. She has found that auditing is very different from tax, and she is out of the office most of the time working with different clients every couple weeks and sometimes multiple ones in the same week. She said that by taking the auditing class this semester as well, it has helped her conceptualize what she is doing in the field.

Starr will have 150 credits in December and is hoping to start work immediately and then start taking the CPA exam the following summer after the busy season is over. Her internships have locked it up. She wants to continue working as an auditor at a public firm.

We asked Starr what advice she has for underclass students who plan to pursue their CPA license. “If I could give anyone advice on classes, I would say to take as many of your General Education credits over the summer as you can. If you are planning on graduating with 150 credits, it makes it a lot easier to do and I wish I had done that early on. When you are looking for internships, do the extra stuff. Go to the career fair obviously, but also go to the Academic and Career Planning Center (ACPC), the Business Blitz, etc. ACPC will review your resume and provide useful guidance. The staff members there are so knowledgeable, and you can practice interviews there or just get job advice. The Business Blitz helped me practice my elevator speech in front of actual employers and professionals. I got to network with these people and received advice on what they look for in candidates. Lastly, the Nittany Lion Career Network is great at finding internships filtered to your criteria. I found my Northwest internship there.” 

You can find ACPC in 125 Reed. Stop in and visit!

What’s up with Accounting?

The good news is that as long as people keep making money, or even if they are not, they will need accountants to assist them. Statistics show that accountants are ranked number six in best business jobs. The accounting field has a high upward trend for opportunities in career advancement and salary, and the flexibility is considered to be above average. Technology such as marketing automation, lead generation, firm improvement and development software, and collaborative learning communities have been changing the lives of accountants today.

Accounting students sitting at a presentation

Meet the Accounting Club Officers

Ryan Coles

Ryan Coles, President ([email protected])

Ryan is a junior Accounting major with a minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and will be earning his 150 credits to sit for the CPA exam by completing the Master of Professional Accounting program. Ryan is also a Black School of Business Ambassador and the Becker Professional Education student representative for Behrend.

Kathryn Gozzard

Kathryn Gozzard, Vice President ([email protected])

Katie is a junior Accounting and Finance major from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, working towards her 150 credits to sit for the CPA exam. Katie is also earning a minor in Management Information Systems. She is a member of the women’s softball team and would like to find a job in public accounting in the auditing field.

Spencer Randall

Spencer Randall, Treasurer ([email protected])

Spencer is a junior from Monroeville, Pennsylvania, with a double major in Accounting and Management Information Systems. He serves as an SGA senator, president of the volleyball and soccer clubs, treasurer of the MIS Club, and is the Gleim student representative. Spencer plans to earn his 150 credits and aspires to work for a Big Four accounting firm.

Margo McCullough

Margo McCullough, Secretary ([email protected])

Margo is a junior Accounting and Finance student minoring in Management Information Systems. Margo is from Meadville, Pennsylvania, and she hopes to become a financial planner. She is the co-captain of the cheerleading team, student leader of the Business Analytics Team, student representative on the Academic Integrity Board, and is also a Business Ambassador.



As a casual way to start the Fall 2017 semester, the Accounting Club held a complimentary picnic at the Wilson Picnic Grove on campus. Students were able to meet one another and get excited about the upcoming semester. The picnic inspired many newer students to join the Accounting Club.


On September 11, the Department of Defense met with students to present on career paths that are outside of public accounting. On October 11th, four speakers on a panel that were representing non-public accounting professions: Jared Stebell, Knox law firm; Bill Samluk, PSB; Chris Elliott, Barber National Institute; Justin Buschman, Wire Weld, presented on specifically working in the non-public world. The speakers helped open students’ eyes to opportunities in the government and non-public entities as an accountant.


On October 18, students, professors, and professionals in the Erie area gathered for a networking opportunity at the new Erie Brewing Company. The event provided students the ability to talk to leaders in the community. Students obtained new contacts at this event that later led to prospective internship opportunities, and practiced networking with the professionals.


On November 30, the Management Information Systems Club and Accounting Club hosted a meeting on campus, welcoming industry professionals Eric Fair and Mark Riley from Schneider Downs. They shared their experiences and became a resource to students studying and entering the risk advisory and IT audit workforce. Students were able to learn about various career paths within the accounting field.


The Fall 2017 Business Blitz was hosted in McGarvey Commons in October, with many Behrend alumni and other professionals of different perspectives, career paths, and different backgrounds coming together. Students were given a one-on-one experience to receive constructive criticism of their elevator speeches and resumes. Following the round-robin special, all participants and faculty enjoyed a casual networking social hour in celebration of the Business Blitz’s success yet again.


To help guide students who are new to the accounting major, the Behrend Accounting Club offered a Senior Round Table. This meeting featured current Penn State Behrend students, Jenna Starr ’18, Luke Popovich, Ericka Hopson, Cathy Brooks, and graduate student Chris Martone ’18. The audience was mentored during this meeting as the students were able to ask questions regarding which classes to take, opportunities to take advantage of at Behrend, and tips for landing an interview. The seniors also shared their internship experiences and plans for after graduation.


The Accounting Club officers attended the Spring Club Showcase on January 10 to encourage students to join Accounting Club and find their passion in the accounting field. They met several of eager students who enjoyed learning more about a possible future as an accountant.

Join us

We encourage students to come to meetings not only to increase networking opportunities but also to further their learning experience in exploring career paths. Accounting Club meetings focus on the importance of taking the CPA exam, students’ study tools, having a successful interview, and building opportunities to open new doors in life. During the spring semester students can expect a presentation from a CPA study program and internal audit professionals. A networking event is in the works to help students continue to build their skills. Join us!

Accounting Networking Event

Some of our Pittsburgh-area accounting alumni and a few faculty members got together at Olive or Twist in Pittsburgh on October 17th to catch up with old friends and make new connections. With all our business majors represented, we were eighty participants strong, and we're looking forward to another outing in 2018!