By All Accounts, They Are No. 1

USF’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi pulls down recognition from many areas.



By Mary Beth Erskine News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 9, 2010) – In 1976, when accounting students in USF’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi – an honors organization for financial information students and professionals that had been in existence just four years – earned superior status for the chapter for the first time, there were four other chapters in the world that had earned similar recognition.


Fast forward to the summer 2010.


The chapter at the University of South Florida is the only one of the five to have maintained superior status.


This summer for the 35th consecutive year, USF students brought home superior recognition from Beta Alpha Psi’s annual national conference. It’s is the longest running record of superior chapter status in the world.


And as if that, itself, isn’t enough, when the national organization implemented the KPMG Gold Challenge two years ago to reward student chapters that consistently do more than is required to achieve superior, USF earned that designation, as well. USF is one of only 15 chapters to receive the gold award this year and one of eight universities that has held this designation for both years it has been offered.


“The students in Beta Alpha Psi are all highly motivated,” said Jennifer Cainas, accounting instructor and the organization’s faculty advisor. “They want to be a gold chapter every year. They’re willing and eager to work for it, and that excitement perpetuates itself.”


The chapter’s secret to success?


“We believe that complacency is the enemy of success,” said Rob Goodwin, Beta Alpha Psi president and graduate accounting student. “We’re always working to retool old activities and create new pathways that will lead our chapter to continued achievement.”


For example, the chapter recently implemented a nearly paperless attendance system, as well as a newly designed website. According to Goodwin, the new site is more than just a facelift but will offer numerous capabilities in one place that previously members had to go to many sites or programs to use.


“Technology is great and it makes the job of an accountant easier,” said Goodwin, “but at the end of the day, accounting is a people business. It’s about making connections, learning from those who came before, and sharing with those who are coming up.”


 With that in mind, Beta Alpha Psi has worked with chapter alumni to create a new mentoring program.


Accounting students who want to join USF’s elite chapter of Beta Alpha Psi know, hands down, that it’s not an easy task to get. Membership is not for the faint hearted.


“We have very high standards and candidacy requirements,” said Goodwin, ticking off a litany of those requirements prospective members must meet throughout their candidacy semester.


With high academic qualifications being only a foot in the door, candidates also must maintain a 75 percent or better attendance rate at all meetings, including regular community service projects, social networking and professional networking activities. They contribute four hours a week to the chapter’s tutoring program in basic accounting. Assist with two fundraising activities. Help with the USF Career Fair. Participate in mock interviews and meetings related to the interview process. And spend time – lots of time – with their “Beta Buddy” as part of a friendly competition that cultivates relationships between candidates and members.


Those standards don’t ease very much once one has become a member, either. Members must either chair one of the chapter’s numerous committees or serve on two while participating in the gamut of service, professional and social activities.


“It’s virtually impossible to be a member of Beta Alpha Psi and stay on the sidelines,” said William Stephens, accounting professor, who served as the chapter’s faculty advisor for 35 years. “It’s not an organization run by a few. Everyone has assignments and everyone makes a contribution.”


The chapter’s plethora of committees makes it possible for members to do that, offering extensive opportunities for leadership experience – just one of the things recruiters find attractive about Beta Alpha Psi students, in addition to the time management skills membership in the organization fosters.


“Anyone who wants to join Beta knows that our high standards make members stronger,” said Goodwin. “In fact, the first question many employment recruiters ask USF accounting majors in interviews is if they are in Beta because they know they can manage their time wisely while attending classes.”


“I initially joined Beta Alpha Psi so it would be on my resume, but now I can see how I’ve developed professionally each semester.” said Amanda Porupski, Beta Alpha Psi vice president. “Joining was the best decision I have ever made. When you surround yourself with the very best, you rise to new levels, becoming even better than you could be on your own.”


Stephens said that students who join the organization are, without a doubt, “quality students,” as well as risk-takers who are not afraid to try new things. But there’s even an even more poignant reason for the chapter’s success.


“The students in Beta Alpha Psi are quality people,” he said. “The type of people you’d want to be friends with, and associate with professionally, for the rest of your career.”


And that, he says, is the true measure of the chapter’s success.


Mary Beth Erskine can be reached at 813-974-6993.