Erskine business students keep moving, keep learning
Assistant Professor of Business Karen Mattison has kept her students moving this year, on the Erskine College campus and beyond. Highlights of the fall semester for students included using their business skills in a service project for Anderson Interfaith Ministries (AIM) and attending the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) 14th Annual Student Leadership Conference in Charlotte. Mattison offered a travel course, Communication and Leadership: Disney Style, during Winter Term. This spring, she accompanied several students to a workshop on fraud led by Tim Hungerford, a partner in a specialized auditing firm in Rochester, N.Y.
Mattison’s Accounting Information Systems class completed an accounting project for Anderson Interfaith Ministries during the fall semester, analyzing financial and program data for the organization. Members of the class included Ford Blanchard, Jeremy Carrell, Justin Cofer, James Evans, Emily Kennington, Sami Maree, Tara Potter, Nicole Shannon, Benny Uy, and Nick Westhead.
“I was very excited to learn we would be working with data from AIM for our Accounting Information Systems (AIS) class project, as I was an intern in their accounting office at the time,” Nicole Shannon said. “It was interesting to go to AIM and learn how to input the data, then to AIS to interpret that data I had just entered.”
Students presented their findings to representatives of AIM in December. “I take great pride in our final report and presentation we gave to AIM,” Shannon added. “It’s an experience I believe greatly helped shape the direction my career will head in the future.”
Before completing the AIM project, class members Blanchard, Carrell, Evans, Maree, and Shannon volunteered as servers at the AIM “Women and Children Succeeding” luncheon in October. The program helps single mothers continue their education.
“Under the watchful eye of the caterer, students prepared and served the plates to the donors attending the luncheon,” Mattison said.
Joining more than 500 students in Charlotte, N.C., for the IMA Student Leadership Conference in November were seven business majors, all concentrating in accounting: seniors Jeremy Carrell, James Evans, Sami Maree, Nicole Shannon, and Nick Westhead, and juniors Ford Blanchard and Benny Uy.
Students participated in workshops on forensic accounting, career readiness, case studies, leadership, and social media, and also attended three general sessions— “Success is Easy—It’s Failing That’s Hard,” “Good Things Come in Snack Packages,” and “Climbing the Ladder and Shaping Your Career.”
James Evans found the forensic accounting seminar most interesting. “The seminar presented general challenges and solutions to fraud,” he said. “Learning how to apply accounting in this way is engaging and exciting.”
The conference as a whole “took a step beyond theory, as we all got a taste of various career cultures,” Evans added.
Shannon hoped to acquire “the skills needed to comfortably connect and network in the business community.” At the IMA conference, she said, “I believe I gained this and more.”
Mattison, who accompanied the students to the IMA conference, noted that “Exhibitors from major banks, accounting firms, graduate schools, and industry met with students one-on-one.”
As for interacting with other conference attendees, Evans said, “I learned that students across the country are in the same situation as I am, except, I have the benefit of an exceptional Erskine education.”
“I am very appreciative that our business department is so willing to give their students the opportunities to participate in events such as these,” Shannon said. “I feel we learn a lot we simply could not gain from classwork.”
In addition to the conference sessions, Erskine students got a chance to tour either the Federal Reserve Bank or the NASCAR Hall of Fame during their time in Charlotte, Mattison said.
Mattison took a group of students to Disney World in January for a Winter Term course, Communication and Leadership: Disney Style. The class membership represented a mix of business and business-related majors and also included several non-business majors. Erskine staff member Hope Harrison also went on the trip.
“Students did mock interviews, presented a chapter from Lee Cockerell’s Creating Magic, and wrote a paper on leadership,” Mattison said. “Students made several oral presentations, including a how-to speech.”
Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney was one of two books students read for the course. The other was a Disney Institute book called Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service.
Junior Ford Blanchard said he plans to apply what he learned about customer service at Disney when he serves clients as an accountant.
“At Disney, cast members, or employees, strive to make every guest feel as though they are the most important person in the world, oftentimes going out of their way. If you ask a cast member, ‘where is the restroom?’ they won’t just give you directions; they will make sure you make it to the restroom.”
Blanchard also noted the biblical basis for good customer service. “As Christians, we should strive to treat everyone with respect,” he said, quoting verse 10 from the fourth chapter of 1 Peter: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
Class members picked up some unlikely skills at Disney world. They learned how to “cut a mango, hold a golf club, swing dance, make an origami frog, make a paper airplane, purchase items on eBay, raise puppies, and understand the Canadian language,” Mattison said.
Several students included comments about what they learned in their anonymously submitted course evaluations, with one describing the experience as “Leadership, Communication and Walt Disney World—where learning meets magic!”
One student found that “The course was different from what I expected—I expected it to be all about Disney, but I love that you threw in some presentations so that we could get better at communicating.”
Another student said, “This course helped me open up and I learned important leadership skills that will help me in all aspects of life.”
Students in the Winter Term course included business majors Rima Antous, Jordan Baker, and Ann-Marie Carlisle; business-accounting majors Ford Blanchard and Jeremy Carrell; sports management major Krysta Schaus; biology major Hannah Bedwell; and music major Julie Boyce.
This semester, Mattison and three business students—James Evans, Tara Potter, and Nicole Shannon—attended “Mystery Fraud Night” in Greenville, a workshop led by Tim Hungerford, a partner in a specialized auditing firm in Rochester, N.Y.
The workshop, set in the context of a dinner, began with attendees sitting down to a meal and learning that they have been hired by a fictitious auditing and fraud examination firm. They spend the evening evaluating evidence, interviewing suspects, and resolving the case.
The entertaining approach was judged a success by Evans, whose interest in the problem of fraud was piqued at the IMA Student Leadership Conference. “Mystery Fraud Night was an action-packed evening of interactive learning,” he said. “We participated hands-on and networked with current professionals in accounting.”
Potter also applauded the hands-on experience. “Mystery Fraud Night helped to make the material we’ve been learning in Auditing this semester come to life,” she said.
“I enjoyed this event and feel like I have a better idea of what types of things auditors do, rather than just the knowledge an auditor must have,” Shannon said.
Mattison noted that Richard J. Barber, Chief Audit Executive for Greenville County Schools and father of Erskine College freshman Brandon Barber, was a participant in the workshop.