BETA ALPHA PSI ACCOUNTING FRATERNITY BUILDS CHARACTER WHILE ENHANCING CAREERS
Accounting professor Jake Cohen applies the precision and concentration of his profession to all his activities, including his work as advisor to accounting fraternity Beta Alpha Psi. "I don't believe in doing anything unless I do it perfectly," he says.
This past academic year, Cohen mapped out a step-by-step plan of action for the 40-member society. His goal: to turn Beta Alpha Psi into an activities-planning, student-motivating, career-enhancing machine. Along the way, he intended to garner local and national recognition for Beta Alpha Psi.
Presidents and advisors from Beta Alpha Psi chapters across the country gather annually for the fraternity's awards convention. At this August's meeting in San Diego, SU's Beta Alpha Psi is seeking the national organization's highest honorbeing named a Superior Chapter, a recognition the SU group has never before earned. "We're shooting for the stars," Cohen says.
The award is based on accumulated points earned by organizing social events, workshops, community volunteer work, field trips, and other activities. By participating in these initiatives, chapter members gain practical experience. Through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, for instance, members helped local residents prepare their taxes by applying what they learned in class. The group also donated more than 300 sandwiches to the Syracuse Rescue Mission. Such efforts didn't go unnoticed on campus. The chapter was nominated for a Chancellor's Award for Public Service.
Beta Alpha Psi President Phillip J. Kaputa '99 believes in the organization's offerings. He was one of several members hired by PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the nation's Big Five accounting firms. Such activities as VITA are important for developing professional skills and providing interaction with the community, Kaputa says. Beta Alpha Psi members learn what the accounting profession truly entails. "We basically try to prepare our members for entry into the field of accounting, showing them the activities of an accountant," he says.
The fraternity not only prepares members for employment, but also helps them line up summer internships and later land jobs with top accounting firms. "Beta Alpha Psi maintains strong relationships with many firms, including the Big Five," Kaputa says.
Beta Alpha Psi members gathered at the organization's fall initiation banquet with faculty members, alumni, and local business owners.
Maintaining relationships with good accounting firms is one benefit that Cohen wants to see continue. "Recruiters want to recruit from schools with strong accounting programs," he says. "And extracurricular involvement through a group like Beta Alpha Psi is a good indicator of a strong program."
PROFESSOR SEES STUDENTS' SELF-ASSESSMENTS AS A WAY TO IMPROVE THEIR PERFORMANCE
Maxwell School professor Jerry Evensky G'82, G'84 uses homework, papers, and exams to evaluate students' progress in the Economic Ideas and Issues (ECN 203) course he teaches for the College of Arts and Sciences. But it is outside class that the students face their toughest criticsthemselves.
Each of the 150 students fills out a weekly self-assessment form at the ECN 203 web page, answering questions on attendance, class participation, hours of study, completion of assignments, and whether help was sought when needed. When the system is fully developed it will compile data from students and calculate the average response to each item. Each week when a student submits a report, the screen will display a graph with three indicators: the student's self-assessed performance, the class average, and Evensky's performance expectations.
"It's supposed to make them reflect personally every week on how they think their performance is going, both relative to what I think they ought to be doing and to what other students are doing," says Evensky, who received a Meredith Professorship for Teaching Excellence in 1996. "The logic here is to constantly make the students accountable for their own behavior. Most of these kids want to be successful, and most of them are willing to do what needs to be done to achieve thatbut there's a huge gap between those two realities because they don't keep track of their own behavior."
With the help of some talented graduate students from the School of Information Studies, Evensky created the system as part of his three-year Meredith Professorship. He developed the idea while serving as a faculty advisor to students in the College of Arts and Sciences' Freshman Forum, a seminar designed to help first-year students acclimate to college life.
"It came out of a growing sense that many students don't think about the implications of their behavior patterns," Evensky says. "They fall behind, and then suddenly it's too late for them to catch up. The kinds of assessment tools I use, such as homework, give me some early sense of how students are performing, but by the time they get to the midterm and I see somebody flunked, it's pretty late."
Part of the problem is that students typically haven't been taught how to stay abreast of what they're supposed to be doing. "In high school, people manage your time for you," Evensky says. "There are passes to go down the hall and bells to tell you to move. Then suddenly you're in a world where there are no bells, no passes, and very few people take the roll. You are supposed to keep track of yourself."
The economics professor says he'll eventually have enough data to see how the process affects both overachievers and average students. "Seeing data like this each week may create an internal feedback dynamic," he says. "The overachievers will always run from the averagetry to jack up their performanceand anybody seeking the average will pursue it. And that pattern will drive the average up."