Members of the UMSL chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants

UMSL’s chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants held a CFO panel with local business leaders earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of UMSL NABA chapter)

Kara Johnson is a sophomore studying accounting at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, and like all students, she’s thinking about her future. She’s trying to figure out how she’ll get a job and start her career after graduation.

She decided to join and has since become the vice president of UMSL’s first chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants – widely referred to as NABA.

NABA, Inc. is a nonprofit membership association dedicated to bridging the opportunity gap for Black business leaders in accounting, finance and entrepreneurship. The organization works to advance people, careers and the mission by providing education, resources and meaningful connections to professional and student members. The UMSL chapter was officially chartered by the national organization last April and currently has 29 members, 25 of whom are registered with the national organization.

Johnson joined hoping it would be a boon to her career after graduating.

“NABA offers a big network that provides valuable insights into the accounting and business world,” Johnson said. “This network is incredibly helpful for students like me who are looking to gain a deeper understanding of the profession and its nuances.”

Assistant Teaching Professor Colleen Mpofu is the chapter’s faculty advisor and wants students to know that though NABA is geared toward Black accounting and now all business professionals, any UMSL student is welcome to participate in campus events. Mpofu also believes NABA is a critical component of raising the visibility of Black accountants and business professionals.

“Sometimes I think there’s not enough representation,” Mpofu said. “Since I’ve been at the university, I’ve had a number of students mention to me that I was their first Black professor or the first Black accounting professor. I think representation is what we need.”

In addition to representation, the nonprofit also offers members a sense of community.

“NABA serves as a comforting and supportive space for Black business students like myself,” Johnson said. “It’s a place where we can connect with others who share similar experiences and aspirations and provides a platform to learn essential business acumen skills.”

DeNae Howard, who is pursuing an MBA at UMSL after earning her undergraduate degree in accounting at the university, is the president of the NABA chapter and believes the organization is responsible for her foray into accounting.

“I have known about NABA since I attended its Accelerated Career Awareness Program following my senior year in high school,” Howard said. “That program is the reason I am in accounting today. Being an alum of ACAP and seeing the value NABA brings to students, it was inevitable that I would help initiate a NABA student chapter at UMSL.”

Not only are UMSL NABA chapter members gaining networking opportunities, education and access to resources, but they also have an opportunity to attend this year’s regional conference in Minneapolis, which began Sunday and continues through Tuesday. The national NABA organization is covering the expenses of 24 students who expressed interest in attending. The generous offer was an effort to get more students involved with the organization.

After learning that funding was a barrier to interested students attending the conference, a representative from NABA reached out to Mpofu and offered to pay for expenses to give the students the chance to experience and benefit from the conference.

“I mentioned to them that the barrier for students attending wasn’t that they weren’t fully aware of the conference, it’s funding,” Mpofu said. “She gave me a call the next morning and wanted to know more. We talked about it, and she said ‘Hey, this is what I’m going to do for you and your students.’”

Nia Hunt, a sophomore accounting major, had been looking forward to her first conference experience.

“This is my first time attending a conference, and I am really shy when it comes to meeting new people, but I am hoping they will teach me ways to navigate my career and how to engage in conversation with others without being afraid, especially in my junior year of college,” she said. “I am hoping for a great, informative and fun weekend. I’m just eager to learn more about the organization, what resources they offer and advice they are willing to give.”

One of the main missions of UMSL’s NABA chapter is to raise its visibility on campus so all business students are aware of its resources and benefits.

The president of the chapter wants business students to utilize every resource available to them to succeed.

“Students in the College of Business Administration should join NABA primarily for the networking opportunities that are available,” Howard said. “NABA is a national organization, and students not only have the opportunity to connect with business leaders at UMSL but also those in the St. Louis area and across the globe during conferences. NABA is an amazing organization that will give students the resources and opportunities to grow professionally and personally. NABA should be a no-brainer, especially for minorities in the College of Business Administration.”

Wendy Todd

Wendy Todd