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By Felicia Krieg
Ten SUNY Plattsburgh students are interning at large accounting firms or Fortune 500 companies this summer as part of their involvement in the college’s chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants.
SUNY Plattsburgh’s chapter was founded on Sept. 27, 2014 and now has about 45 members. The group welcomes students from all majors and ethnicities.
Accounting majors Ariana Robinson ’16, Isaiah Scott ’17 and Shantavia Smith ’17, received scholarships from the National Association of Black Accountants, Goldman Sachs and Deloitte, respectively.
Robinson, the outgoing president of the chapter, was also named National Association of Black Accountants student of the year.
This summer, she and Scott are interning at Ernst & Young’s Times Square office in Manhattan. Smith is interning at Johnson & Johnson in Raritan, N.J.
Their success didn’t come without long hours of studying and much effort put into participation in student organizations.
“I witnessed first-hand the amount of time they devote to their coursework,” said Dr. Mohamed Gaber, professor and chair of the accounting department and 2001 Chancellor’s Award winner for Excellence in Teaching.
“They are hardworking, highly intelligent, keenly focused on their career aspirations and involved in many campus leadership and extracurricular activities.”
Other National Association of Black Accountants chapter members interning in New York City this summer are Brandon Mitchell ’18 and Tolulope Adebamiro ’18, who are both with PricewaterhouseCoopers; Leslie Ochonma ’17, the chapter’s founding president, Tierra Chess ’18, and Jakeel Benjamin ’17, who are with Ernst & Young; Kevin Joseph ’17, who is interning with IBM and Charmi Shah, an intern for J.P. Morgan.
Founding member Nataly Aquino, who graduated in May 2016, is starting a full-time job with Ernst & Young in October 2016.
Since the start of her freshman year, Chess has been involved in extracurricular activities including holding several on-campus jobs.
“A successful National Association of Black Accountants student chapter will promote the SUNY Plattsburgh campus as a diverse and welcoming community.”
She has worked as an admissions ambassador, peer career assistant at the Career Development Center and calculus tutor at the Claude J. Clark Learning Center. During the summer following her freshman year, she interned with J.P. Morgan.
And in the spring 2016 semester, Chess studied computer science and finance at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
“You just want to try everything,” she said. “There is no limit at SUNY Plattsburgh.”
Chess and the other students landed their internships by networking with professional National Association of Black Accountants members at the 2015 Eastern Region Student Conference in Pittsburgh.
But they initially didn’t have the funds in their budget to get there, said Robinson, the outgoing president of the chapter.
Dr. Rowena Ortiz-Walters, dean of the School of Business and Economics, and Gaber were quick to help, Robinson said.
“She has been extremely supportive of us,” Robinson said of Ortiz.
Dr. Edward Lusk, professor of accounting, has offered the chapter members advice and Tara Studley, assistant dean of the School of Business and Economics, helped promote the chapter and its events, which included programs on gender equality, sexual harassment in the workplace, the flaws in the nation’s prison system, a black excellence event in honor of Black History Month and an internship advice panel.
After a 30 percent increase in student members between January and February 2016, the chapter was named winner of the National Association of Black Accountants Membership Initiative Drive and was awarded $1,500 toward the cost of attending the Eastern Region Student Conference in Pittsburg in September 2016.
Dr. Jason Lee, accounting professor and adviser to the chapter, said the increased membership will help the chapter get more attention from the organization’s headquarters, which will attract high-quality speakers to campus to hold training programs and seminars for students.
“A successful National Association of Black Accountants student chapter will promote the SUNY Plattsburgh campus as a diverse and welcoming community,” he added.
In keeping with the National Association of Black Accountants’ slogan, “lift as we climb,” Robinson said after she graduates she wants to return to SUNY Plattsburgh as a professional member of the organization to help guide future student members toward success.
“The organization is about mentoring and helping others to succeed,” she said. “We’re just really positive about the things that we do and we really get students into professional development.”
“We strongly believe in applied and experiential learning as a key factor in student success,” Gaber said.
On average, 80 percent of students who graduate with a degree in accounting from SUNY Plattsburgh have completed at least one internship.
“Not only do we serve as educators, but also as mentors to accounting students to help them build their self-confidence and realize their career potentials.”
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