The June 2012 edition of the Journal of Accountancy draws attention to the continued need to encourage diversity in the accounting profession and puts forward several “best practice” suggestions. Chief among them is the call for better mentoring – pairing new hires with a seasoned professional who can show them the ropes and help build their confidence as embark on careers in this demanding field.
That’s the idea behind the Building Bridges Mentoring Program, an initiative of the Multicultural Student Programs and Services at the University of Notre Dame. Building Bridges matches historically underrepresented first-year students with faculty from the departments that the students wish to explore as possible majors. The faculty mentors play an integral role in the academic development of the students, which results in many of the participating students finding opportunities for research and internships within their first two years at the University.
For the summer of 2012, 44 external internships were offered to Bridges students. Another 18 Bridgesstudents will begin graduate studies in the fall.
Those landing internships included four first-year students from the Mendoza College of Business who received offers to intern with Big Four accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Margarita Arcenas, Zach Juarez, Juliana Lacouture and Demetrius Murphy accepted PwC’s Semester of Discovery Internship (SDI) offer.
Each worked with a faculty mentor from the Department of Accountancy.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with Building Bridges,” said Fred Mittelstaedt, Deloitte Foundation Professor of Accountancy and chair of the Accountancy Department at the Mendoza College. “The department attempts to provide these students with a glimpse of possible future careers in accounting with the goal of providing them a path into the accounting profession.”
As a group, the Notre Dame students also regularly interacted with accountancy major Maxx Paez ’12, who served as a peer mentor for the program. Paez helped them make adjustments to college life and navigate the academic landscape. He also introduced the students to the business recruiting cycle, which included attending several events hosted by the Notre Dame Career Center that focused on preparing for the Fall Career Expo. "Freshmen need to begin networking with corporations and firms as soon as they arrive on campus so they can develop meaningful relationships with those professionals,” he said.
"We are thrilled to have the interest in our Semester of Discovery internship program coming from so many freshman students at Notre Dame," says PwC's Firmwide Relationship Partner Joe Nocera. "Maxx Paez and Multicultural Student Programs and Services' support has really made all the difference, in that they have helped us share the opportunity more broadly on campus and become connected with top freshman earlier in the process than we have seen in the past."
“These four first-year students at ND landed a rare internship with PwC as part of the firm’s ELITE early career identification program, a highly competitive summer experience designed to recruit the nation’s top college talent as a pipeline to full-time placement,” said Lee Svete, director of the Notre Dame Career Center.
Since 2008, 40 Building Bridges students have landed “pipeline” leadership program offers from accounting’s Big Four (Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers).
“I am most certainly positive that I would not have obtained this internship without Maxx,” said Zach Juarez. “He shared his experiences of his internship and how beneficial it was to his career, which is what first interested me into learning more about the internship.
“He also answered all of my questions with excellent insight; the most important being my question on how to prepare for my interview with PwC,” continued Juarez. “Maxx explained everything perfectly, and gave me the confidence I needed to perform well when interviewing with them. I was extremely lucky to have had his help and I am looking forward to having a great experience this summer.”
Notre Dame students must apply to Building Bridges the summer prior to their first year. If accepted, the student will meet regularly with his or her mentor throughout the year. Students will also be assigned to a peer mentor and grouped with other first-year students in the program who share the same academic interests. After the first year, the program will continue to assist students with finding opportunities for academic growth and career discernment.
For more information about the Building Bridges Mentorship Program, visit Multicultural Student Programs and Services at msps.nd.edu/programs/building-bridges/