A day with the passport to success program

Andrew George

Finding out that cash is king and a career in accounting involves more than crunching numbers were just some of the focuses of the Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs (PICPA) Passport to Opportunity program that was hosted by the Beta Alpha Psi honors society.

For the Radnor, Conestoga and Penncrest high school students who participated in Wednesday’s activities, the Passport to Opportunity exposed them to the University as a whole and the many varied careers that are available to accountants.

The day’s events began with opening remarks from accounting professor Dr. Tony Catanach and Chris Voudouris, student president of Beta Alpha Psi. Right from the beginning of the program, any traditional stereotypes of accounting were dispelled. Catanach made references to the information-based accounting of the future and the networking opportunities that the day’s events afforded the possible future accountants.

After the opening address, members of Beta Alpha Psi gave the three high school groups walking tours of the University. The tours encompassed the entire University, although special emphasis was given to Bartley Hall and the College of Commerce and Finance. Immediately following the campus tours, lunch was served so that the different school students could meet each other and the professionals and organizers of the event. Present at the luncheon was John Alessi, president of PICPA’s Greater Philadelphia Council. Alessi said, “The Passport to Opportunity was a great way to present CPAs in a new light.”

The highlight of the day came toward the end of the event when the three guest speakers who lectured about their own encounters in accounting and answered questions from the students.

Denise Devine, CEO of Devine Foods, Brian Conti, from assurance and advisory business services at Ernst and Young, and Jonathan Costello, Senior Associate at Safeguard International Fund, L.P., all gave 15-minute presentations about their respective experiences.

Denise Devine told the high school students about her beginning in public accounting that eventually led her to start her own company, Devine Foods, Inc., as an alternative to the non-healthy name brand children’s foods. Stressing that “accounting is the language of business,” she explained that with her accounting background she was well equipped to take on the many roles that starting a business from scratch entails.

Brian Conti addressed topics that extended from his experiences with Ernst and Young, a Big 4 firm. “Flexibility is a key aspect of accounting,” Conti said, as he described the areas of work that first-year public accountants do to the opportunities accounting majors have for working in the FBI. He also told the students about client interaction, stating that he “travels 15-20 percent of the year.”

Jonathan Costello’s career at Safeguard International Fund uses his accounting background to make high-tech investment opportunity decisions. Safeguard International Fund maintains offices in Philadelphia, Frankfurt and Paris enabling him to travel to Europe to use his knowledge of accounting in deciding to buy and sell privately held companies. Speaking on accounting and international travels, Costello told the students “[You] don’t need to know a foreign language, you can speak accounting.”