UMSL accounting students preparing to compete in Beta Alpha Psi competition at national meeting in Las Vegas

by | Jun 12, 2023

Krista Akers, Jameah Collins and Jarchelle Williams won the chance to compete after placing first at the regional competition in Milwaukee earlier this year.
Three young women stand in front of a wall with the state of Wisconsin and the words Milwaukee, Wisconsin on it.

(From left) Krista Akers, Jameah Collins and Jarchelle Williams won first place in the Beta Alpha Psi “Best Practices Competition” regional competition in Milwaukee, earning the opportunity to compete at the national meeting in August in Las Vegas. (Photo provided by Williams)

Krista Akers, Jameah Collins and Jarchelle Williams, all accounting students at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, won the chance to take part in the Beta Alpha Psi Best Practices competition at the honors organization’s annual meeting this August in Las Vegas.

The annual competition is presented in partnership with accounting firm Deloitte and challenges chapters to create and complete activities to further goals identified by the board of directors of Beta Alpha Psi and the firm. The activities are intended to demonstrate the mission and nature of Beta Alpha Psi and, if possible, allow other chapters to enact the activities. This year’s theme for the competition was “Reimagining the Path Forward.”

Johnna Murray, an associate teaching professor in UMSL’s Department of Accounting, encouraged Akers, Collins and Williams to participate, and they wound up taking first place and a $750 prize at the Beta Alpha Psi’s mid-year regional meeting in Milwaukee, qualifying them for the national competition.

“The Best Practices competition allows chapters around our region to share ideas for future events,” Murray said. “I knew that Krista, Jameah and Jarchelle would develop a good presentation for the competition and could share what they thought was unique about our chapter.”

Of the three sub-topics, they chose “Reimagine Leadership and Collaboration” and conceptualized a different way for companies to recruit recent graduates with company sponsored networking dinners that invite job seekers to dine and engage with management and other personnel. They wanted to create more meaningful interactions with recruiters than what can typically be achieved at more traditional networking events.

“Networking dinners are not a standard,” Williams said. “It’s not a norm within the accounting department. Most of the time it’s just a networking event where every company is lined against the wall, and you kind of go in this semicircle. It’s very large, it’s exciting, but it’s also super overwhelming. You don’t remember who you talked to. It’s not impactful.”

After presenting their work at the competition in Milwaukee, the group received excellent feedback from the judges on their ingenuity and execution. The judges were so impressed by the concept of networking dinners that they asked the group if they’d thought of how to duplicate the experience at other institutions.

This feedback only validated what the group already knew, having tested the idea by organizing a dinner for UMSL Beta Alpha Psi members with local accounting firm, Schmersahl Treloar & Co. It resulted in Collins getting an interview for an internship.

“That idea behind being able to show others how networking can be fun and not just be super overwhelming is what I was most excited about as a student,” said Williams, who graduated last month. “You get to know people one on one because some people don’t like to be in loud, uncomfortable settings. Even for me as an extrovert, it’s still uncomfortable.”

From conception to execution, the competition was a learning experience for the group that helped them develop in a number of ways.

“I found the entire experience to be an exceptional opportunity for professional and personal growth,” said Akers, who works full-time as accounting associate for the City of Creve Coeur. “I am extremely grateful for the support we’ve received from our wonderful faculty advisor, Johnna Murray. I’m also grateful for the time and energy Jarchelle and Jameah spent on this. We had a great team for this preliminary round.”

Collins, who is also an international business major and usually reserved, gained the ability to be more social and vocal.

“It used to be hard for me to hold a conversation,” she said. “I’m a ‘yes, no, that’s it’ type of person. It helped me to open up more and explain myself in better detail.”

Collins has branched out so much that in lieu of participating in the national competition – with other groups who placed first and second at the mid-year regional meetings – she will be taking an honors international business course at the University of Oxford in England. Though she won’t be there in person, she aims to provide a video.

Akers will also be unable to attend the conference in Las Vegas, so accounting students, Kristin Lawrence and DeNae Howard, the new NABA UMSL chapter president, will be filling in.

Murray not only felt the competition experience would be beneficial to the group’s educational and personal development but also knew it would be a good avenue for them to connect with other accounting colleagues in the organization.

“This conference is also an opportunity to network with peers and professionals across the country who might be future co-workers,” Murray said. “Attendance at these conferences helps our chapter maintain our superior status, and winning prizes is an added bonus. I’m excited to see what happens at the national competition in Las Vegas this summer.”

Wendy Todd

Wendy Todd