The Illinois CPA Society hosted the Mary T. Washington Wylie (MTWW) Internship Preparation Program in January, providing 25 minority college students across Illinois with unparalleled access to training and resources essential in the transition from student to professional. Two of the MTWW scholars, Sury Jimenez and Ali Jafar, both students at Elgin Community College, were selected for the highly competitive program. In all, the 25 students represented 19 Illinois colleges and universities. The program is tailored for students from institutions of higher learning where accounting firms may not typically recruit, providing access and educational opportunities to individuals who otherwise would not receive them.
During the three day preparation program students interacted with young professionals who participated in the program last year to gain a perspective on opportunities afforded by the intensive and well-rounded curriculum as well as what skills and training to expect from an internship and entry-level position in an accounting firm. The young professionals brought energy and a unique connection as they counseled students through panel discussions regarding the CPA exam, the interview process and the day-to-day functions of an intern.
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Students also received one-on-one advice and critiques from recruiters about improving their resumes and interview skills. They joined in educational sessions dedicated to soft-skills, business etiquette, leadership competencies and ethics. Vice Chairman, Central region managing principal, and Chicago managing principal for Deloitte LLP, Byron Spruell, delivered the program's inspirational keynote address, focusing on overcoming personal and professional challenges and supporting diversity within the profession.
Key to the internship preparation program's success included the generous involvement from leading accounting firms: Crowe Horwath LLP, Deloitte LLP, Ernst & Young LLP, Grant Thornton LLP, KPMG LLP, Sikich LLP. Each firm engaged the scholars in different formats: with speakers, volunteers or mentors to help develop and facilitate the program.
"I learned so much about maintaining my resume and making it clear and concise," said Angela Jordan, student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. "I learned how to market myself and craft an elevator pitch. I'm more confident in who I am and know where I want to go in life."
At the end of the program, participating firms interviewed the students for a variety of paid internship opportunities, and all participants received a $500 scholarship to help with educational expenses. In 2013, the program's inaugural year, 25 students participated with 13 of those students receiving offers for internships or other professional opportunities, and, thus far, this year 11 MTWW scholars have received offers from the participating firms.
"I now have a broader network of fellow students who I know have the same anxieties and aspirations as I do. That's a powerful bond," said Brian Denton, sophomore at Bradley University. "This program helped kick-start my career with connections to young professionals as well as influential and established professionals who, I know if I work hard and apply myself, will be there for me with guidance and even perhaps a job."
"I don't think I would have had the opportunity to interview, have those opportunities to put myself out there for different recruiters for different amazing accounting firms," said Ebony Lang, student at Robert Morris University.
The internship preparation program honors Ms. Washington Wylie, a trailblazer for minorities in the accounting profession, and advances diversity within the profession by building skills and presenting new opportunities for success to minority students in Illinois. The preparation program, hosted January 6-8, 2014, was a three-day, all expenses paid program for students interested in the accounting profession.
The program is funded by donations to the CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois' Mary T. Washington Wylie Opportunity Fund. To be eligible for the program, minority students must have sophomore or junior standing at an Illinois college or university during the 2013-2014 academic year, have a 3.0/4.0 GPA, and complete an application.
"The Illinois CPA Society is committed to advancing diversity within the accounting profession," said Illinois CPA Society President, Todd Shapiro. "We want to engage and encourage young professionals and the MTWW program accomplishes both goals. The Society hosts a wide range of activities throughout the year tailored to students across Illinois, providing them with the resources they need not only to transition from student to young professional, but so they flourish throughout their career."