Stepping Up...Celebrating those who make a difference to the School of Management
Learning Through Service to the Community
Now more than ever, nonprofit organizations face increasing demand for strong financial management and continued pressure to do more with less. They need the latest fiscal management information and tools, but often lack the resources to keep up with fast-changing industry demands.
In an effort to help some local agencies meet these needs, 40 School of Management MS accounting students shared their skills at four Western New York nonprofits during the spring semester.
It's a hands-on collaboration that allows the students to sharpen their skills while providing the organizations with much-needed services so they can focus on their mission.
"There is a need to serve, especially with the valuable skills our students can offer," says Kathleen Nesper, assistant professor of accounting and law, who coordinates the program. "These projects help the students recognize that need while gaining hands-on experience and a greater sensitivity to the challenges these organizations face."
Positioning for the future
Roger Woodworth '99, EMBA '09, president and CEO, speaks with a veteran at the Veterans One-Stop Center of Western New York. (Photos: Tom Wolf)
Established in 2012, the Veterans One-Stop Center of Western New York (VOC of WNY) works to connect U.S. military veterans and their families with the services they need to complete the transition to civilian life and achieve their goals.
Four student groups assisted the organization on a number of projects throughout the semester. They wrote a fixed-asset policy (including a flowchart); set up a fixed-asset listing and depreciation schedule; wrote a grants receivable policy; evaluated and improved internal controls as it relates to cash receipts and disbursements; developed a paperless invoice and purchase order process; and streamlined and optimized the required reporting demands for management and the board of directors.
"The students helped position us for where we want to be rather than where we are now," says Roger Woodworth '99, EMBA '09, president and CEO of the VOC of WNY. "They were professional and eager to learn, and we treated it like a real business consulting agreement. We would definitely have them back."
Finances in harmony
Robert Pacillo, founder and artistic director, leads the Harmonia Chamber Singers in a rehearsal at St. Joseph University Parish in Buffalo.
Harmonia Chamber Singers is a professional-caliber a cappella choral ensemble. There, School of Management students set up QuickBooks, cash control policies and monthly reports.
Nancy Nuzzo, former director of UB's music and special collections libraries, sings with Harmonia. She says the group needed finance help to meet the requirements of being incorporated.
"All of a sudden we grew up and needed to have directors, officers and liability insurance—all those things that nonprofits need," says Nuzzo. "For the students, it is basic accounting stuff, but for a group of singers who just want to sing and not deal with the financials, it was a big help."
Amilyn Scott '13, MS '14, one of the students who worked with Harmonia, says the experience expanded her skillset—and her mindset.
"I had never worked with QuickBooks or on a Mac computer, so I had to develop new skills and gain new knowledge before I could pass that along to Harmonia," says Scott, who joined Freed Maxick CPAs after graduation. "As I begin my career as a professional accountant, I will continue to work with nonprofit companies in an effort to better the community."
Support for entrepreneurs
Ben Bissell (right), executive director of the Westminster Economic Development Initiative, works with Win Shwe, co-owner of Rakhapura Mutee & Sushi, at the West Side Bazaar in Buffalo.
Students also developed an origination and collection process for a microloan program at the Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI), which supports entrepreneurs and small businesses on Buffalo's West Side through development, training and education. Its microloan program provides financing to prospective and current area business owners, often refugees and immigrants who lack the credit history to receive a bank loan.
Ben Bissell, executive director of WEDI, says the redesigned program will allow it to assist even more businesses in the area.
"We are busy with the implementation of the programs, so it was great to have the students here to take the time to research grant opportunities and microloan program best practices," he says. "Now we're able to use their proposal in the redesign of our program."
Evan Stern '13, MS '14, who joined PricewaterhouseCoopers in Manhattan after graduation, says his time at WEDI benefited him and those WEDI serves.
"Doing the work was rewarding, and now the loan program is structured to work even better for WEDI and the community," says Stern.
Lending a hand to UB
For UB's Policy and Internal Control Department, students researched and drafted a conflict of interest statement, performed transaction testing and reviewed internal control documentation, resulting in recommendations for improvement. They also developed a Microsoft Access database for the university's Financial Services Department.
School of Management MS accounting students Evan Stern '13, MS '14, Jacqueline Krajacic '13, MS '14, and Sarah Warner '13, MS '14, with Pamela Lojacono '81, MBA '82, interim director, policy and internal control at UB.
"My particular unit is very small and the accounting students were an invaluable resource," says Pamela Lojacono '81, MBA '82, interim director, policy and internal control at UB. "They helped me complete required projects by drawing on fresh ideas and specialized skill sets."
Jacqueline Krajacic '13, MS '14, worked with Lojacono on the projects. She joined Tronconi Segarra & Associates after graduating in May.
"Working with the internal teams at UB reinforced what we learned in the classroom," says Krajacic. "It really prepared us for what we'd be doing on the job."
The program will again be offered during the spring 2015 semester. To learn more about how School of Management students can help your government or nonprofit organization, contact Kathleen Nesper at firstname.lastname@example.org.