2002 Arthur Andersen recruits find new work

Christopher Pinnock

Arthur Andersen was always one of the top employers to extend offers to the greatest number of Villanova graduates in past years. With a huge Philadelphia office housing about 900 employees, it was easy to see why Andersen was a heavy recruiter at Villanova.

Last year, 24 Commerce and Finance students accepted job offers from the once-mighty Big 5 Accounting firm. This hefty number of students, mostly accounting majors, had it made – job offers from a reputable firm in the fall, taking the often heavy “where to start my career” burden off of their shoulders.

Unlike many of their peers, they could ditch the suits and crumple the resumes and not have to attend another career fair or set up another interview. The contracts were signed and the offers were agreed upon.

Many of these accounting students had never met professor Bob McParland of the accounting department as he joined the Villanova faculty last fall. He taught only one class, splitting time between teaching and his job at TL Ventures, a venture capital firm. McParland would soon become an integral part of these students’ spring semesters.

Last October, the Enron collapse was a huge blow to Andersen, who was dragged under the corporate fraud radar screen alongside its audited client. Anderson did not begin to layoff employees until March of 2002 when the future of the firm was grim.

At Villanova, McParland could sense that the absence of Andersen would leave a huge void on campus. Having three or four students in his spring class who were in the group of 24 that signed with Andersen, he kept his ears open every week about recruiting changes.

In a matter of weeks, all of the 24 Villanova students had their offers rescinded from Andersen. And it could not have happened at a worse time – late March of their senior year.

McParland’s office became the rallying point for the 24 former Andersen recruits. In the following weeks, the accounting department set up a meeting with Andersen to work out some sort of plan for the 24 students. McParland began making contacts for the students, forwarding resumes to as many people as possible. He hoped to place at least some of the students who suffered from cases of bad luck.

The group of seven students that McParland had been helping soon grew to 24 at the request of Dr. James Borden, chair of the accountancy department. Anticipating the tremendous time commitment to help place even half of the 24 students, McParland felt it was necessary to take a leave from TL Ventures for two or three months.

From March through May, he spent all of his working time on campus, teaching and mainly trying to help as many of the students as possible find new jobs.

“I wanted to keep them on their toes,” McParland said. “We sent out weekly memos to the students, looked at resumes and backgrounds and tried to help students find hidden assets.”

His goal was to place as many students as possible with top firms and in jobs that were similar to what they would have experienced at Andersen.

In the next six months, McParland led a remarkable effort that placed all of the 24 students who had their Andersen offers revoked in new jobs. Offers were given from reputable firms such as KPMG, which made eight offers to the students, Grant Thorton, Deloitte and Touche and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

McParland gives much of the credit to the students themselves. “It was easy to help place Villanova students,” he remarked. “Recruiters often told me that Villanova students are one of the best coached groups.”

McParland hopes to continue with career assistance and advice at Villanova. “I’d like to have a continual role with placement and not only teach adjunct.” He continues to teach Cost Accounting and has taken on the title of Business Fellow. He again splits his time between Villanova and TL Ventures and still allows time for a round of golf or two every week.

Dr. Borden was extremely delighted with the placement of all of the former Andersen recruits. “Bob is a perfect example of someone who was in the right place at the right time, particularly from the students’ (and their parents’) perspective. Working with other accounting faculty members, Bob put together a coordinated plan of action that included helping students with their resumes and interviewing skills, leveraging our existing professional contacts along with developing many new ones, and keeping the students’ spirits high throughout the process. We will continue to reap the benefits of Bob’s efforts for many years to come as a result of his dedication to our students and his ability to promote the strength of our program to the business community. Bob’s work is the embodiment of the C&F strategic plan, where students are at the center of all that we do.”

McParland looks back with enjoyment at the six months in working with the 24 students finding jobs. “That was the most fun I’ve ever had,” he concluded.