Helping propel students from under-represented populations into fulfilling accounting careers, St. Francis College has launched a student chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), a nonprofit membership association dedicated to bridging the opportunity gap for Black professionals in the accounting, finance and related business professions.
SFC's NABA chapter hosts guest speakers, organizes networking events and provides services and resources that enrich students' classroom learning and equips them with skills, knowledge and contacts to compete successfully for jobs.
The chapter organized its first two events – guest speakers Keithroy Nanton Ph.D., CPA, professor at Monroe College and Alicia Browne '05, MBA, CPA, senior manager at Ernst & Young (EY) -- in fall 2020. It received its official charter from NABA, Inc. -- the national organization -- on Dec. 2, 2020.
According to the chapter President Tonya Fletcher '21 BS/MS Accounting, work to establish NABA at SFC began in fall 2019, when Carmine Nogara, Ph.D., chair of the department of accounting and business law, raised the possibility with Fletcher and other students with strong academic credentials. The students began studying the organization's bylaws and creating a strategy to recruit their peers.
The suspension of in-person instruction at SFC in spring 2020 delayed some organizing efforts, pushing the kickoff into fall.
"It's important to have an environment where students feel that they can get the necessary tools to not only help them in college, but life after college," said Fletcher, about the rationale for launching NABA at SFC. About 10 students have been actively involved with the chapter so far with more joining as the pace of activity accelerates. In addition to Fletcher, chapter officers are NABA SCREP Chair Rheann Rivere '21, Vice President Jean Junior Lafleur '23, Treasurer Jordan Jackson '22, and Secretary Jaria Luke '21.
"It's important to get your foot in the door by networking with people doing what you want to do. That person can become your mentor. We'll have Excel courses, interview workshops, resume workshops. We hope that with NABA, you're not just learning from professors, but from your peers too," said Fletcher.
SFC's accounting department has a long track record of preparing students for top jobs. Accounting faculty regularly help students secure internships in companies including JP Morgan Chase, Pomona Capital and National Grid, with whom SFC has an internship and scholarship program. Graduates frequently go on to land coveted positions at PwC, EY, KMPG and Deloitte, the world's largest accounting firms collectively referred to as the Big Four. Those jobs often serve as steppingstones to prestigious careers within those companies or elsewhere.
"While our goal as faculty is to create a learning environment that ensures every single motivated student is ready to flourish professionally after graduation, we're also keenly attuned to our responsibility to close racial disparities that still exist in the accounting and financial fields, particularly because our SFC student body is exceptionally diverse," said Dr. Nogara.
"NABA is a wonderful and necessary addition to SFC's student life and we're so proud of our students for owning the process to make it a reality here," said Dr. Nogara, who also pointed to the support of Monique Moore Pryor, SFC's chief engagement and external affairs officer, as instrumental to NABA's launch at SFC.
Twenty-two percent of SFC students identify themselves as Black*, and while Black people make up about 13 percent of the entire United States population, they account for only about 9 percent of all 1.9 million accountants and auditors in the U.S.
"The work of Tonya Fletcher in bringing NABA into SFC and the investment and nurturing demonstrated by Carmine Nogara and his colleagues are truly exemplary models for others to follow at SFC," said Jeffrey Diaz, interim chief of diversity, equity and inclusion at SFC.
St. Francis College has awarded an average of about 50 accounting degrees each year for the past six years, including both bachelor's and master's degrees. In 2008, SFC launched its stand-alone MS in accounting program. Its five-year combined BS/MS program enrolled its first students in 2006. Along with its NABA chapter, the student-run Accounting Society supplements classroom learning by hosting guest speakers and organizing professional networking events.
*Fall 2019 student data
Pictured above: Tonya Fletcher '21