Sydney Wittnebel ’19 found the perfect placement after graduating with a degree in Accounting. She interned and then accepted an offer with Schlenner Wenner & Co., a mid-sized St. Cloud accounting firm giving her the opportunity to work with both big and small companies while also focusing on volunteering and having an influence on her professional community.
She was able to get to know Schlenner Wenner well as a student through visits during Accounting Club meetings, an informal Meet the Firms event, a more formal job fair and an internship experience thanks to the intentional work of the Accounting Department to give students and employers multiple touchpoints.
Bringing her experience full circle, Wittnebel is gaining her professional experience and giving back to current SCSU accounting students as she meets and networks with them through department events.
“Accounting is a broad field. Graduates go on to careers in corporate settings, preparing tax returns or doing audits, or they might take on advisory or consulting work or become business analysts,” Accounting professor Dr. Amy Fredin said. “Choices include working in industry, for public firms, or private entities among others. There are many career options depending on a student’s interests and goals. That is why St. Cloud State’s Accounting program does so much to help students explore their options within the field.”
One of the department’s flagship events is Meet the Firms. Held each fall, this event brings more than 20 area firms to interact with Accounting and other business majors in a casual, no-pressure environment.
Faculty also encourage students to join the Accounting Club where companies, firms, and professional organizations come to campus weekly to present information about the accounting profession from their perspective and answer student questions, again in an informal way.
The preparation doesn’t stop there, with the department hosting an annual career fair and a scholarship dinner, where students and employers continue with interactions, but in a more formal setting. Finally, internships are strongly encouraged to get a feel for both the profession and a firm that interests students.
Among its many partnerships in the region and Twin Cities, the Accounting department values its decades-long relationship with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CLA). Likewise, CLA considers St. Cloud State a major source for entry-level accounting recruitment for their Minnesota location. “We act as a sounding board for faculty as they work directly with students to prepare them for careers in accounting. We also want to be a support for students, offering resume reviews and mock interviews through the University’s Career Center,” said Sondra Glenn ’89, CLA signing director and recruiting lead.
Building a specialized workforce of professionals, SCSU students can prepare for and take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exams. St. Cloud State also offers a unique focus in internal audit content that preps students to take the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) exam. SCSU is the only university in a five-state region that partners with the Institute of Internal Auditors to get approval on the department’s internal audit curriculum.
“The focus on preparing students for exams is important to future employers, who seek licensed professionals. Many St. Cloud State Accounting graduates hired at CLA, for example, successfully passed their CPA exam and became licensed professionals. What they learn while obtaining their undergraduate degree has a lot to do with that,” Glenn said.
“The St. Cloud State Accounting Department and University as a whole are vital to keeping the St. Cloud and surrounding communities strong,” she said. “Numerous area businesses and organizations look to the University to prepare their future talent. CLA has a continued commitment to engage with SCSU and find opportunities within our organization for graduates of the accounting and other relevant programs.”
While SCSU plays a significant role in preparing the next generation of industry professionals, the cycle of giving back to the University spans many firms in the region. Ann Glenz ’04, a partner at Eide Bailly, makes her way back to St. Cloud State often to work with students.
Since she and her colleagues are able to interact with students through numerous touchpoints, many times students will receive an offer for employment before graduating.
“I feel like the professors have done a really nice job of giving students the tools and skill sets they need to have a conversation with prospective employers,” she said. “The Career Center plays a vital and proactive role with notifying students of open positions as well.”
Eide Bailly hires Accounting graduates from St. Cloud State each year and hosts interns.
“St. Cloud State has prepared a core group of individuals who we hired and have retained at the firm for a long time, and we continually place new talent from the University,” she said. “It’s really been a good source for us.”
The need for accountants continues to grow, and St. Cloud State’s Accounting faculty are preparing new professionals who are high in demand. “Employers consistently tell us how polished our students are and how they seek to recruit SCSU Accounting majors because they know they’re well prepared and ready to go right into the field and take on those responsibilities.” Fredin said.