Annual ACLA conference inspires underrepresented accounting students

ACLA 2019By Abigail Draper, OSCPA communication and engagement manager

Students attending The Ohio CPA Foundation’s Accounting Careers Leadership Academy (ACLA) say the event helps them feel empowered and gives them the tools they need to succeed in the accounting profession.

Connie Simms, a student and executive secretary at Kent State University, said the event, held last week in Columbus, pushed her out of her comfort zone. She said she was particularly inspired by the “amazing” motivational speaker Tei Street, who said, “You can’t be a light unless you flip the switch.”

An Air Force veteran with more than 30 years of experience in the professional world, Simms is what some call a “nontraditional” student.

“As a secretary, I spend my time making other people look good,” she said, “but now it’s time for me to make myself look good,” she said.

ACLA is designed to give accounting students who are traditionally underrepresented in the field the tools they need to succeed as they go into their careers and toward the CPA exam. This includes students who identify as having a disability, are LGBTQ, veterans, first-generation and people of color.

Dharani Raman, senior at Case Western University and ACLA attendee, said she started out studying biomedical engineering but decided to go the accounting route instead.

“With accounting, you get to experience every industry and learn what’s going on in that field without actually doing those things.”

Raman said she thinks ACLA has been especially helpful for students who have a few years before graduating, but she is still very glad she attended.

“I’m a senior and I’ve already signed with Deloitte, but to attend this kind of conference and be reminded of why I went into accounting, it’s valuable and I appreciate it.”

This year’s conference was held at the Hilton Columbus at Easton and was sponsored by Marathon Petroleum, EY, Deloitte, Schneider Downs, Clark Schaefer Hackett and PwC.