School of Management Newsletter
Close to 30 members of Beta Alpha Psi — the honor organization for accounting, finance, and information systems students — observed how accounting standards are developed during a trip to the Financial Accounting Standards Board offices in Norwalk, Conn., on Nov. 11.
The nonprofit Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) sets U.S. accounting standards for companies and other nongovernmental entities, while the Governmental Accounting Standards Board performs the same service for state and local governments; the Financial Accounting Foundation oversees the work of both organizations. During their visit, the students — along with Accounting Prof. J. Donald Warren, Jr. and Finance Prof. John Finnigan, the BAP faculty advisor —attended a meeting of the FASB; afterwards, they met with staff members who discussed topics currently under consideration by the two boards. One of those staffers was Marist alumna Lisa Valentini-Ghosh ’95, who joined the foundation in October; she also chatted with the group about her own career, and emphasized the importance of networking in finding professional opportunities. The program concluded with a talk by two members of the foundation’s Postgraduate Technical Assistants program, which offers new graduates the chance to work with the standards boards for one year.
“The FASB trip gave the students an experience of seeing how the accounting rules are created,” said Prof. Finnigan. “It also gave them a greater understanding of the purpose of the FASB, and introduced them to some of the internship possibilities that exist there.”
Billy M. Atkinson, Jr., chairman of the Private Company Council, offered a presentation on accounting standards for private companies at the college’s Nelly Goletti Theatre on Dec. 2.
Established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board in 2012, the Private Company Council identifies exceptions to GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) that are necessary for privately owned firms. Atkinson’s in-depth presentation explained how the council is structured, the framework it uses to make decisions, and some of the issues — including goodwill and interest rate swaps — it has addressed.
Atkinson, a certified public accountant, spent 39 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, retiring in 2011. He is also the board chairman of the Texas Public Finance Authority, and former chair of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.
Hosted by the college’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, the event is the first to be held in the School of Management’s speaker series on accounting topics.
“The speaker series will broaden Marist students’ knowledge of their chosen careers in accounting and finance by exposing them to noted leaders in the profession,” says accounting Prof. J. Donald Warren, Jr., coordinator of the series. “It will give them the opportunity to interact with seasoned professionals and obtains information from sources other than classroom studies.”
IN THE PHOTO: Brian DiFilippo ’03, a partner with D’Arcangelo & Co., LLP; Billy Atkinson of the Private Company Council; Beta Alpha Psi President Samantha Villacampa; and Dean Lawrence Singleton
The School of Management, along with the Beta Gamma Sigma academic honor society, sponsored this semester’s Ethics Week on Nov. 17-20. Presentations addressed the ethical implications of various circumstances in business situations as well as other areas of life. Presenters included faculty members Bill Brown, Melinda Weisberg, Larry Weisberg, Jianing Fang, Don Warren, Steven Rossi, and Anne Zahradnik.
Henry Helgeson, founder and CEO of Cayan, was the event’s featured guest speaker. A onetime student at Marist, Helgeson launched Merchant Warehouse (now known as Cayan) in 1998. The company provides affordable credit-card processing services to small businesses; Helgeson helped pave the way for the firm’s introduction of Genius, a device that can process payments made using credit and debit cards as well as mobile phones.
IN THE PHOTO: SoM students welcome Henry Helgeson (center), founder and CEO of Cayan, during Ethics Week
Friday afternoon: A time when the minds of many students (not to mention working adults) are in “weekend mode.” During the past semester, however, School of Management undergrads spent their Fridays attending guest speaker presentations arranged by Prof. Brian Haughey.
In all, five speakers offered insights on various aspects of the business world. Class of 2014 alumni Vincent Raia and Chris McMahon kicked off the series on Sept. 25, sharing their experiences working at Moody’s Investor Service. (See the October newsletter for more on their presentation.) Andrew Crowell, president of California-based financial advisors Crowell, Weedon and Co. — and the parent of a current Marist student — spoke on Oct. 2. He described the sectors of the industry (such as investment management and retirement income planning) that are expected to see future growth; he also discussed “the importance of having a disciplined investment process,” says Prof. Haughey, “and not falling victim to emotion, either exuberance or despair.”
How to prepare for an interview in the financial services industry was the topic of the Oct. 9 program, which Prof. Haughey presented himself. Financial advisor and Marist graduate Gregory J. Garville ’74 closed out the series with a lecture entitled “Private Equity Investments in Lower Middle Market Businesses.” “Garville made sure that his presentation was extremely interactive, from asking questions to giving real-life examples,” says attendee Briana Ferrentino ’16. “I believe his examples really helped us to understand what his job truly entails.”
Prof. Haughey sees multiple benefits to this program. “The guest speaker series provides students with a glimpse into the working lives of our guests — their functional roles, who their clients are, the products they offer, and what client needs they fulfill. They can learn how the speakers’ careers developed, and their perspectives on the markets. Students have an opportunity to learn how the financial markets really work, and to benefit from the speakers’ insights. The lectures also allow students to network with the speakers, and to learn about internship and career openings.”
IN THE PHOTO: Guest speaker Andrew Crowell (second from right) with students Megan Callanan ’16, Briana Ferrentino ’16, Alexis Wagner ’16, and Anthony Ferrentino ’17
Halloween wouldn’t have been complete in Accounting Prof. J. Donald Warren, Jr.’s auditing class without a visit from Batman. A big fan of the comic book character, Prof. Warren draws parallels between the moral behavior of the Caped Crusader “and the fiduciary responsibility accountants and auditors have to the public,” he says. In the film The Dark Knight, the evil Joker reminds Batman that he has rules he will never break, which makes him incorruptible; Prof. Warren tells students that accountants also have rules they must follow, both in preparing and auditing financial statements and in maintaining integrity in the profession. To emphasize his point, he hosted a class “Bat Party” on Oct. 30, attended by Batman (aka Matthew Kryger ’17) himself.
IN THE PHOTO Batman Matthew Kryger ’17 is surrounded by (back row, from left) Arman Saadat ’16, Corey Paradise ’16, Kathleen Brennan ’16; and (front row, from left) Amanda Malatesta ’17, Angelo Acquista ’16, Victoria Menegat ’16
A native of northeastern China, Prof. Li earned her Ph.D. in accounting from Dongbei University of Finance and Economics, which has one of China’s top accounting programs. After moving to the U.S. in 2009, she continued her studies at Louisiana State University, earning a master’s degree in accounting in 2011. Along with her husband Richard and 10-year-old daughter, Donna, Prof. Li makes her home in the town of Poughkeepsie; in her nonworking hours, she enjoys going to fitness classes (“Zumba and Pilates are my favorites”), hiking, and attending live theater performances.
Q: When did you begin teaching at Marist?
A: I have been working as an assistant professor of accounting at Marist since the fall of 2013, teaching undergraduate financial, managerial, and intermediate accounting. I am also an advisor to undergraduate students majoring in accounting and finance.
Q: Had you taught anywhere else previously?
A: I was an assistant professor of accounting at Macau University of Science and Technology from 2006 to 2011, teaching intermediate, advanced, financial and managerial accounting and corporate finance, MBA accounting, DBA research seminars, and supervising undergraduate final year projects and master’s theses.
Q: You studied in both Louisiana and China. How did you end up attending universities that are so far apart, both geographically and culturally?
A: Macao is a Special Administrative Region on the southern coast of China where eastern and western cultures converge. In 2009, as a visiting professor, I came to Eastern Michigan University and Bowling Green State University [in Ohio] where I had much communication and many collaborations — in both teaching and research — with the professors in the U.S. My interest in the U.S. accounting and economic systems made me go for a master’s degree in accounting in 2011. After I graduated from Louisiana State University, I started my great working experience here at Marist. I never fear getting into a new culture or social environment; instead, I enjoy exploring uncertainties, discovering new knowledge, and making friends with people from different backgrounds.
Q: What initially attracted you to the study of accounting?
A: When I was a university student, I was taught and advised by some distinguished accounting professors who played a critical part in my selection of accounting as a major. I was fortunate enough to learn from and work with them when I was young. My later experience in the accounting practice also made me believe that accounting was a profession I would be fascinated with.
Q: At what point did you know that you wanted to teach?
A: As a university student, I started my first part-time teaching experience in an elementary school teaching “New Concept English” to children. I received initial training that equipped me with the attitude, behaviors and skills required to teach effectively. I feel teachers can make a positive, impactful and lasting difference in a person’s life. Students want to be successful, and I love doing my part to make this success possible.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching at Marist?
A: Marist has many superior professors dedicated and committed to excellence in education. It is my great pleasure to work with these people. Unlike many public universities, Marist has relatively small class sizes. Students can feel the personal warmth of professors and are more likely to be engaged and motivated in learning. In the meantime, professors enjoy teaching more.
Students at Marist are awesome. They aren’t just kids on my class list. They become a part of my heart.
Debra S. Levantrosser calls herself “a serial entrepreneur.” “I’ve had several businesses over the years,” says the Michigan native, who earned her MPA at Marist in 1996. Currently, she owns two companies — Arbed Solutions.com, a business consulting firm; and Shimmy Shack, a food truck that serves exclusively vegan fare in the greater Detroit area.
Levantrosser’s resume is certainly impressive. Before launching Arbed Solutions in 2003, she was an executive at big-name firms including Johnson & Johnson, Ford Motor Company, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (she ran the latter’s Southeast Asian office in Bangkok, Thailand). “I’ve worked in more than 50 countries, and lived in five,” she says.
Her diverse experience has served her well as a consultant. “I do a lot of lean manufacturing, supply chain, and strategic planning; and general facilitation and moderation,” she explains. “I act as an unbiased moderator at senior-level meetings, and help executives with their strategic plans. Lean manufacturing involves using the ideas of the people who know the processes the best to remove waste from how the company operates.” In 2008, she started the Michigan Lean Consortium, a nonprofit group dedicated to the idea that “lean principles can transform the state of Michigan so it can be as competitive as it’s ever been.” The organization now has more than 1,000 members; its success prompted the state’s lieutenant governor to join its board of advisors.
Shimmy Shack, however, is “my professional soulmate,” says Levantrosser. “I’ve been vegan for 25 years, and I always wanted to own a restaurant to show people how good vegan food can be, and eliminate the stereotype that it’s boring and bland. About three years ago, I decided to open a food truck; it was a lot less expensive, and I could test the market to see if it was ready for this kind of food. And it is!” She mans the kitchen of this restaurant-on-wheels — which earlier this year was named one of the five best vegan food trucks in America by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). And while you might think that this is an unusual sideline for a business consultant, Levantrosser would beg to differ. “It’s not that big of a departure from what I’ve done before,” she says. “I do my own strategic plan with my team, and we try to be as efficient as possible. I employ all the principles that I use with the clients of my consulting company.”
As a 15-year member of the Dean’s Board of Advisors, Levantrosser points to improved course offerings as the most positive change she’s witnessed at the School of Management. “I really have seen the curriculum grow. And there are definitely some new opportunities coming that I’m really excited about. I think it’s world-class education, to be honest.” In addition, she and her parents sponsor two scholarships at Marist. “One is for women, and one for MPA students,” she says. “We’re impacting the ability for people to attend Marist, and help them financially to achieve their academic goals.”