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Saint Mary’s students win accounting prize

Katie Kohler | Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Four Saint Mary’s students placed third in the Indiana Certified Public Account (CPA) Society 2007 Case Study Competition, which began on Nov. 2. Saint Mary’s has participated in the contest sporadically for years, but this is the first year the College placed in the finals.

The competition was open to every college in Indiana, said Mary Ann Merryman, chair of the Department of Business Administration and Economics and advisor to the team.

“There is a sense of pride in competing against such large schools,” she said, referencing Purdue, Ball State and Indiana University. “… They are big players, and I’m really proud of [the Saint Mary’s team] for doing so well.”

The team was composed of seniors Erica Reidenbach and Noreen Sherred and juniors Megan Clarkson and Anna Hoefer. The prize for third place was $500 per student.

The contest consisted of a case-study evaluation in which the teams had 10 days to research the designated topic and write a lengthy solution to the problem. This year’s topic was succession planning – how small companies prepare for seamless turnover.

“The girls had even less time than they were supposed to because of fall break,” Merryman said. “But each student carried their share of the load and was committed to the project.”

Hoefer said she felt the pressure from the time-intensive project.

“Since we didn’t know what the case would be until the first day of the competition, we couldn’t really prepare,” she said. “Once we received the case, we did a lot of background research on the Internet, as well as talking to CPAs.”

They also gathered information by contacting CPAs Jeff McGowan of Kruggel, Lawton & Company in South Bend and Paul Matvey of Schneider Downs & Co. in Pittsburgh.

Noreen, a double major in accounting and economics, also felt the pressure of her senior comprehension project, a requirement for graduation at Saint Mary’s.

“The competition came at a very hectic time in everyone’s schedules. Erica and I were balancing our senior comprehension paper on top of the case study,” she said. “The week we found out we made it to the finals was another crazy night filled with long hours and sleepless nights. We just needed to practice as much as we could.”

Merryman acted as the faculty advisor, although the Indiana CPA Society discourages outside help from professors and other professionals.

“I acted as a coach for the girls and a resource,” she said. “It was their work that got them to the finals.”

Of the participating schools, six were chosen to advance to the finals and present their case study to a panel of practicing CPAs in Indianapolis.

Saint Mary’s came in third behind the University of Southern Indiana, which has won the competition the past four years, and Valparaiso. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Butler and Manchester College filled out the rest of the finalists.

“Southern Indiana really has it down to a science,” Merryman said.

Typically, the Saint Mary’s team is composed strictly of seniors.

“It is such a big time commitment for seniors, so I thought it would be a good idea to include juniors who are willing to put in the time and effort,” Merryman said.

She said Southern Indiana’s continuity-enhancing practice of including juniors and seniors on the team has aided in its success.

Noreen hopes for continued success with Saint Mary’s participation in this event.

“This is the best showing we have ever had,” she said. “It was truly a great experience that helped build my teamwork and leadership skills.”