Students Visit Employers and Alumni in NYCStudents Visit Employers and Alumni in NYC
A New York City trip to visit employers and alumni at major firms has become an annual fall tradition for top finance and accounting students.

The visits began last year. Mike Zeitler ’12 applied the lesson he learned on the inaugural trip: Get involved in extracurricular activities. He’s now vice president of major events for Ithaca’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, the honor society for accounting and finance students and professionals.

"After the firm visit last year, I knew I had to become more involved as well as maintain my good GPA," said Zeitler, an accounting major. "I took up a leadership role in Beta Alpha Psi, and although it’s been a lot of work at times I'm really glad I did."

Leaders from Beta Alpha Psi helped the School’s former professional development coordinator, Bethany Kilgore, plan the trip in early September for 28 upperclassmen. The group, accompanied by Kilgore, drove to New York City on a Wednesday evening and spent two full days visiting five firms – Ernst & Young, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, and PwC – to network with employer representatives and alumni at each firm.

Ryan O’Connor ’12, an accounting major and BAP chapter president, reinforces the alumni message about extracurricular involvement.

"Get involved on campus with something that you enjoy or pertains to your degree, and do your best to obtain a leadership role in that environment. Develop and diversify your skills," he said.

On last year’s visit, O’Connor says, he learned more about what’s required to obtain an internship: "I felt more comfortable sitting in on the interview and even felt as though I understood each firm’s culture a little more as a result of the visit. Of course, grades are very important, but getting involved for the sake of self-development and attaining leadership positions give you some validity and experience with respect to your peers."

Alumni at KPMG and PwC sat down for panel discussions with the students, and nine alumni joined the students for a networking dinner on the first evening at Da Rosina on West 46th Street.

"The alumni we met were great – easy to talk to, willing to share their new experiences and give advice as to which way we can look for help," said O’Connor.

"I was most surrised with accessibility to alumni," said Mike Severo ’12, a finance major. "I was able to schedule a couple of calls with the people I met with on the trip."

The alumni involvement impressed the students.

"Students assume that alumni will not have time or are uninterested in assisting them in their job pursuits. I’ve learned this couldn’t be further from the truth," said Severo.

Preliminary planning for the trip involved balancing the needs of accounting majors and finance majors, said Severo. O’Connor and Zeitler assisted Kilgore in setting up details for the trip that included 26 juniors and seniors, two sophomores. Kilgore handled the contacts at the participating firms, while students made arrangements to stay at the Best Western Robert Treat Hotel in Newark, N.J., recruited drivers, assigned passengers, and oversaw logistics in New York City.

Ithaca’s Beta Alpha Psi chapter was granted a charter in 2008. Members attend the Atlantic Coast Regional Conference in March and the Beta Alpha Psi National Conference in August. On campus, they are required to attend six professional events with guest speakers and perform 12 hours of community service per semester.

Zeitler says while he averages about two hours a week on BAP business, the hours soar to nearly 20 in the spring to plan the annual banquet that draws about 140 attendees. Members invite more than 200 students, family members and businesspeople.

The students agreed the New York City visit provided valuable insight into what it’s like to work at a major firm.

"Even though many of the accounting firms or financial firms offer the same services, they each have their own unique culture," said O’Connor. "This is important because I personally want to be doing something I enjoy with people I enjoy. Without the combination of these two things, work would just be another job."

And students practiced their networking skills.

"Developing networking abilities and being comfortable with face time is imperative to the development of success," said Severo. "Any opportunity to expand these skills in one worth embracing, and this trip far exceeded my expectations in that regard."

For O’Connor, the opportunity to see accounting firms in action is the most valuable piece of his Ithaca education:

"I believe it has been the most beneficial experience of my academic career and opened my eyes to the world in which I will be working rather than just reading about it and studying it in the classroom."

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