Accounting Stars Program Introduces Students to the “Language of Business”

Matthew Palermo, professor MaryAnn Monforte and Dan Griffin posing for a photo together

Accounting Stars Program Introduces Students to the “Language of Business”

When Professor of Accounting Practice MaryAnn Monforte ’95 MBA, asks students in her Introduction to Financial Accounting class what majors they are considering, too few answered “accounting.” She set out to change that by starting the Whitman School’s Accounting Stars Program.

“No kid grows up saying, ‘I want to be an accountant,’” says Monforte, who has been a member of the Whitman faculty since 2008. “But I see so many students here at Whitman who are really good at accounting. I believe that accounting is a wonderful place for students to start their business careers, and the skills they learn pair well with so many other interests.”

Each semester, Monforte identifies students with an aptitude for accounting and invites them to join the Accounting Stars Program. Activities include in-person events that are often sponsored and attended by representatives from the Big Four, including many Whitman alumni. These events are not only informative, they are fun, too, with food, classroom visits, guest lectures and social events. (In the fall of 2020, for example, PwC held a game night with a murder mystery theme.) Students have the opportunity to network, ask questions and learn more about what current professionals are doing in their careers. Due to the pandemic, last year’s events were held virtually, but the program is scheduled to resume in-person events this fall.

“Students love these events,” she states, noting that there were 98 students selected as Accounting Stars in the spring of 2021. “And, once you become an Accounting Star for a semester, you stay on my distribution list, so you’re invited to these events for the subsequent three semesters at the Whitman School.”

While Monforte hopes many of her Accounting Stars will choose to major in accounting only, she’s also pleased when they add it to another major, as that only increases their options and marketability.

“I’m a true believer that accounting is ‘the language of business’ and when you understand accounting, you understand all of business. For that reason, firms are looking for students with other business skills plus accounting,” she says. “Many times, students know they want to work in business analytics, finance, entrepreneurship or marketing, but once they see the skills that accounting gives them, they decide to add that, too.”

Alex Utrecht ’23 is a double major in accounting and business analytics with a minor in sports management. The rising junior was tapped to be an accounting star as a first-year student.

“The Accounting Stars Program has been incredible. I came into Whitman as an undecided major, and, after taking just one accounting class with professor Monforte, I discovered how much I enjoyed this field,” he says.

I’m a true believer that accounting is ‘the language of business’ and when you understand accounting, you understand all of business.”
— MaryAnn Monforte ’95 MBA
Professor of Accounting Practice

Utrecht explains that the Accounting Stars Program has opened up a variety of doors for him through the events offered.

“I’ve had the opportunity to develop relationships with firms and learn first-hand about various accounting routes,” he says. “I now have a better understanding of the different service lines within accounting and have expanded my networking thanks to these opportunities. My favorite thus far was the EY Social Hour, hosted by EY professionals and new hires. We were able to connect with EY alumni and discuss their experiences within the firm. In addition, EY was generous enough to raffle off a Bose speaker at the event—which I won! It’s safe to say that this program has been very beneficial to my experience with accounting so far.”

Utrecht’s interaction is an example of what Monforte hopes students get out of the Accounting Stars Program.

“I want students to take the time to really consider accounting as an option. Being an accounting star is a way of showing that to them—while having some fun at the same time,” she explains. “To me, accounting is business in the purest sense, and, if you understand that, it opens a world of possibilities.”