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Lehigh, PricewaterhouseCoopers announce new scholars program

A new partnership between Lehigh’s trend-setting Computer Science and Business (CSB) program and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) will open the door to internships for students in Europe and New York, with the prospect of a job upon graduation with one of the nation’s leading accounting firms.

“Lehigh is devoting its attention to the widening gap between technology and business operations by cross-educating students,” says Griffith Welton, a partner at PwC. “With this program, Lehigh is addressing a significant need in the marketplace, which is why the competition to recruit these students is so high.

“They’re well-educated and able to make an accelerated start in a career where information systems and business process skills are essential.”

Last fall, recruiters from PwC and the nation’s other “Big Four” accounting firms all made their way from Manhattan to Bethlehem to talk with Lehigh students enrolled in the highly competitive major, the first and only undergraduate program in the U.S. to offer accredited degrees in both business and computer science.

PwC representatives were so impressed by the program and the 28 students who comprise CSB’s first graduating cohort that they entered into discussions with CSB faculty members Jim Hall, Ed Kay, and Hank Korth about partnering on a scholars program exclusively dedicated to supporting CSB students eager to tackle today’s post-Enron business environment.

In response to the ENRON scandal, Congress in 2002 implemented the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires stricter corporate internal controls and new rules to improve corporate governance and bolster investor confidence.

The result of the discussions between Lehigh and PwC is a scholars program unlike any other.

The first group of scholars will be selected by May 17, 2006 (after the completion of their sophomore year) and will intern at a PwC location in Europe—either Prague or Budapest—this summer. They’ll likely follow up that international experience with an internship with PwC in the New York area after their junior year.

Students who continue to meet the academic requirements and remain in good standing with the firm will likely be formally offered a position with PwC upon graduation from Lehigh.

PwC aggressively pursued this opportunity because the marketplace is seeing an unprecedented demand for professionals who understand where technology and business strategies intersect—and how both affect corporate internal controls and corporate governance issues. It’s a career path that was suddenly altered with the passing of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a change of procedure that had companies scrambling to hire professionals with that unique skill set. Finding those qualified recruits is still a challenge today.

That’s why the CSB program has attracted the attention of business leaders.

Many students are trained in business and many others in computer science, but few excel in both disciplines. “Because most computer science applications are designed specifically to solve business problems, this void of expertise is an anomaly,” says Jim Hall, the Peter E. Bennett Chair of Business and Economics at Lehigh. “We know there’s a market demand for students who can walk into these roles and be productive, right from day one. Lehigh’s Computer Science and Business students meet that need.”

Raymond Kelly, a CSB major graduating with this year’s cohort, has another way of explaining the program and the advantage it gives him in the marketplace.

“With so many transactions taking place over networks, it’s easy for a programmer to make a slight mistake. If you’re an accountant with no programming knowledge, if you don’t understand the code, then you’re never going to catch it,” Kelly says. “But I can.”

--Tom Yencho

Posted on Friday, March 24, 2006

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