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Three recent alumni finish with the elite on national accounting test

Alumni recipients of the Elijah Watt Sells Award include Paul Zimbardo '09...

Each year, approximately 100,000 accounting students across America take the four-part Uniform CPA Examination in an effort to earn their licenses as Certified Public Accountants.

Fewer than 50, or .05 percent, pass all four sections of the grueling exam on their first try, while also achieving a cumulative score of 95.50 or better.

Those who do receive the Elijah Watt Sells Award from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The award, established in 1923, is named for one of the founders of the AICPA and one of the founding partners of Haskins & Sells, a predecessor to Deloitte & Touche.

In 2010, Paul Zimbardo ‘09 and Christopher Schoell ’09 became the first graduates of Lehigh’s accounting department  to receive the prestigious Sells Award. A year later, Megan Cody ‘10 became the third.

“This is certainly a feather in our cap,” said Parveen Gupta, department chair and professor of accounting. “We are very proud of all three students. They were brilliant students in all respects and they well deserve the recognition.”

Gupta and Kenneth Sinclair, professor of accounting, attribute this unprecedented showing to the rigor and scope of Lehigh’s accounting program and the quality of its students.

“Our program attracts the best and the brightest,” says Gupta. “The major CPA firms and other recruiters compete aggressively for our students. Placement is nearly 100 percent, and that is a testament to the quality of our students and the program.

“Our goal is to provide students with a distinctive learning experience to prepare them for leadership roles down the road. We strive for holistic development, involving rigorous coursework to develop critical thinking and communication skills, as well as engaging students in ‘co-curricular’ activities to reinforce life-long learning skills outside of the classroom.”

Program draws students seeking rigor

“Lehigh accounting majors are doers” says Sinclair. “The accounting major has a strong reputation and therefore it has become a self-selection process. Students understand the rigor of the program and they know what they’re getting into.”

The accounting department provides undergraduate students and graduate students in the Master’s in Accounting and Information Analysis program with the resources, activities and insight to excel in the classroom and in industry, says Gupta.

Opportunities include networking field trips, presentations by renowned speakers, the Beta Alpha Psi honors society, Becker CPA preparation courses and interactive workshops with major accounting firms.

Zimbardo, who is now a senior audit associate for Grant Thornton, graduated from Lehigh with highest honors while completing a double major in accounting and finance. He stayed an extra year to earn his master’s in accounting and information analysis in 2010.

“My undergraduate courses at Lehigh covered the majority of the contents of the CPA exam in a great level of detail,” Zimbardo said. “My education at Lehigh provided tremendous value on the exam and continues to assist me in my career.”

At Grant Thornton, Zimbardo specializes in financial service audits of hedge funds and private equity firms. He is also employed as a financial market analyst with Seeking Alpha, where he has published more than 200 articles covering a variety of financial topics.

Schoell, who works for PwC’s Banking and Capital Markets Assurance Practice in New York, also majored in accounting and stayed at Lehigh as a presidential scholar to earn his master’s in accounting and information analysis in 2010.

“Lehigh’s accounting program,” said Schoell, “gave me the tools to apply accounting standards in practice, and helped me develop the soft skills that are highly valued in business. The real world knowledge held by Lehigh’s professors added a practical element to the classroom and introduced me to the prevailing challenges facing the accounting profession.”

Cody, who is currently employed by the Financial Service Office at Ernst & Young, LLP, was accepted into the Eckardt Scholars program of Lehigh’s College of Arts and Science, where, working with Gupta, she completed a research project on executive compensation in banks.
 

 
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Story by Tommy Misiolek '13

Posted on Wednesday, March 06, 2013

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