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Student accounting team triumphs again in national case study competition
Posted: 08/22/2008
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For the third time in the past five years a team of students from The University of Texas-Pan American's College of Business Administration has won first place at the National Case Study Competition sponsored by KPMG and ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting).

Held at the annual ALPFA convention Aug. 10-14 in Phoenix, Ariz., the team of four competed against teams from 23 other universities. Advancing out of the South Regional competition the first day, the team went on to defeat Baruch College, Florida International University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Puerto Rico, University of Texas at Arlington and the defending national champion Arizona State University and defending runner-up Colorado State University for the national championship.

Members of the UTPA student accounting team that recently won the 2008 National Case Study Competition sponsored by KPMG and ALPFA are left to right Carolina Mollick, Rosa Ybarra, Cynthia Rios and Carlos Ramirez.
The winning team members, all recommended by UTPA accounting department faculty and holding an average 3.86 GPA, are Carolina Mollick and Cynthia Rios, both accounting majors in the Masters of Accountancy (MACC) program; Carlos Ramirez, a senior accounting major in the Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) program; and Rosa Ybarra, a sophomore majoring in finance. The team's faculty adviser is Dr. John Darcy, J.D., C.P.A., associate dean for Undergraduate Education in the College of Business Administration.

Darcy said during the awards banquet, the competition judges indicated it was a "hands down" victory, and that UTPA's team presentation was of a quality they would expect from a top professional firm.

"The reason teams from UTPA are successful time and time again in national competitions is due to our secret weapon: our students. They possess what the judges in this competition describe as the key factor to success: heart," Darcy said.

The case studies presented to the student teams in February 2008 were based on real public companies with real accounting, finance and business issues. Assigned a case study of the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Meyers Squibb, the UTPA team worked together to identify issues, develop a plan to research them, formulate a solution and prepare a 20-minute presentation regarding their case before a panel of judges comprised of KPMG partners or managers and ALPFA professionals from firms like Goldman Sachs and the Walt Disney Corp.

Mollick described the many hours of research, practice and the immersion in their topic as similar to "training for the Olympics."

"I was very happy and satisfied that all our hard work paid off," she said and acknowledged the support of Dr. Dora Saavedra, associate professor in the Department of Communication, who helped them to polish their presentation skills and the guidance of Darcy.

"He gave us a lot of feedback but he was also our toughest critic and that prepared us for any question, any comment," said Mollick, who hopes to go on and earn a Ph.D. in accountancy.

Darcy said along with the team's superior depth of research and its strong focus on what the team identified as the central accounting issues affecting the company, the team's performances have also benefitted from the kinship that has developed among the UTPA students who have participated in the competition over the years.

"Delia Sanchez, a member of the 2004 team and now a UTPA lecturer in the College of Business Administration, has helped to organize and mentor each succeeding team. Mariela Molina Ruiz of the 2005 team who is now a CPA with the local firm Smith, Fankhauser, Voigt & Watson arranged for the team to present its case before professionals at her firm to receive feedback before the competition," he said.

As students, the team members agreed that working on the Bristol-Meyers Squibb case was an opportunity to use their classroom learning in a real world environment.

"It gives you tools for your future career. It exposes you to the 'real world' of corporate accountants and shows you what you need to have to succeed," Mollick said.

Darcy said participating in the national competition gives students a chance to make presentations to senior executives and develop confidence working on a national stage. They are also able to meet with team members from other schools and accounting professions.

"This exposure makes our students aware of the opportunities that exist for them outside of the Rio Grande Valley," he said. "The team's success also raises the awareness of The University of Texas-Pan American and its talented students among thousands of business professionals and educators from across the country."

KPMG is one of the world's largest firms providing auditing, tax and advisory services. It employs more than 123,000 people in over 140 countries. ALPFA is a 35-year old nonprofit professional organization dedicated to enhancing opportunities for Latinos in accounting, finance and related professions. For information on accounting and/or finance degree programs at the UTPA College of Business Administration, go to www.utpa.edu/coba.