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The bottom line: Students receive expert advice at accounting symposium
Posted: 10/12/2012
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Hard work is a primary key to success according to Robert C. Vackar, CEO of the Bert Ogden Auto Group in McAllen, where he oversees 13 dealership locations housing 15 franchise lines across the Rio Grande Valley and employs 700 people.

Pictured left to right at the UTPA College of Business Administration's recent Accounting Symposium are symposium panelist Dan Martinez, managing partner/CEO, Martinez and Associates; Dr. Teo Ozuna, dean, College of Business Administration; keynote speaker and panelist Robert Vackar, CEO, Bert Ogden Auto Group; Dr. Penny Simpson, associate dean, College of Business Administration; Martin Baylor, vice president for Business Affairs; and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, vice president for Academic Affairs and provost.
"When I was working through my career I never asked anyone what the hours were going to be. And I never asked what I was going to make," he said.

Vackar was a keynote speaker at the College of Business Administration's 2012 Accounting Symposium held Sept. 26 at The University of Texas-Pan American. A standing-room-only crowd of nearly 150 students heard lots of sound career advice during the symposium, titled "Beyond the Numbers: Accountants as Leaders." The event was organized by the UTPA Accounting Society, led by its president Yamely Barrios, who also moderated the event.

Vackar earned a degree in accounting from Texas A&M University before serving in the military and working as a financial analyst for Shell Oil in Houston. He returned to his hometown of Edinburg to work with the father of his wife Janet Ogden at the original Bert Ogden Motors dealership in Edinburg. His auto group is now one of the leading auto groups in the nation.

Vackar recently became a member of the College of Business Administration's Advisory Council.

"I believe the strength of a school of business is accounting. If you have an accounting degree you have the ability to read and understand the financials," Vackar said.

Besides a strong work ethic, potential employees also need to have people skills and be confident, self starters, said Vackar, who has hired 26 Pan Am graduates at Bert Ogden.

"In the next year to year and a half, we want to double that," said Vackar, describing the many opportunities for accounting and other business graduates at his company.

Following his presentation, Vackar joined in a panel presentation that also featured Dan Martinez (BBA-accounting '78), managing partner/CEO, Martinez and Associates in Houston, Texas; Paul R. Estrada, senior manager, Deloitte in Costa Mesa, Calif.; and Susan Turley, CPA and chief financial officer at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas.

The panel answered questions ranging from what an accounting background brings to positions as managers to what business leaders they personally admired and why. In their responses, panelists stressed the need for students to develop strong critical thinking skills, adaptability and a broad technical skill set as they enter the workforce. Students were also able to interact with the speakers at a meet-and-greet reception following the panel presentation.

Barrios, a master's of accounting student who hopes to be a CPA, said she learned how important a strong work ethic is after listening to the panelists.

"They said they value your work ethic as much or more than your GPA, how much you are involved or what degree you have in selecting people for jobs," she said.

She said the symposium her student organization planned offered students an opportunity to learn that accounting is more than just "crunching the numbers."

"It's about working with actual people and developing relationships with those people. They (students) also get to see people who are successful in the fields of accounting who have similar backgrounds as them or who are from the Edinburg area. That makes it very relatable," she said.

Learn more about the accounting programs at UTPA here.