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Accounting & Business Law

2019-2020 Accounting Graduate Program Director Report

Nov. 16, 2020

By Tim Thomasson

As I write my initial graduate program director's report, I want to thank my predecessor, Gia Chevis. She graciously agreed to begin serving as director of Innovation in Accounting Data & Analytics for our department in the fall of 2019. This role is critical to the ongoing success of our programs, and she is the perfect individual for the position. Chevis' vision took our accounting graduate programs to new heights and we would not be in a position of continued success without her efforts. We owe her tremendous gratitude for what she has done for our two graduate programs, and for our department. We look forward to seeing what the future has in store with her new role.

In reflecting back on my first year as graduate program director, I am reminded how critical it is for our profession to have sufficient vision such that we remain ahead of, not behind, the curve. While a stereotype for some may exist that we are rigid or slow to react to changes in our profession, we know the opposite to be true. Our profession is constantly on the move. We quickly adapt to changes in accounting standards, or tax rules and regulations. As technology continues to rapidly evolve, we do not resign ourselves to losing employment opportunities to automation. Rather, we embrace this evolution to broaden the scope of our capabilities beyond limits we imagined in the past. We continue to develop new and more efficient ways to solve complex problems and to communicate useful information to the end-users of the data we process, test and analyze. As more types of organizations require and value our expertise, employment opportunities beyond the more-traditional boundaries continue to arise. We adapt so that we are prepared for these new opportunities.

Yes, our profession has aggressively embraced change. We have in our two graduate programs, as well. Our department understands how critical it is for our professors, students and curriculum to stay ahead, not fall behind. And it is with this spirit that we began the 2019-2020 academic year with one of our largest classes of graduate students and our most robust curriculum. But COVID-19 brought new and different challenges during the second half of this academic year. Challenges not only to how we learn but to how we conduct our daily lives. Notwithstanding these challenges, I am so proud of how our students, faculty and supporters have responded.

We began the 2019-2020 academic year with an enrollment of 95 graduate students, our third highest. Due in large part to our partnership with KPMG's Master of Accounting with Data and Analytics (MADA) initiative and valuable input from the other organizations that hire our students and support our department, key courses incorporated competencies critical for our student's success in the rapidly-evolving profession. In the aftermath of one of the largest pieces of tax legislation in recent history, students in our tax courses addressed the most recent issues in tax research, compliance, and planning. Our graduate students also hosted a conference at the end of the semester in which they presented 19 topics related to the most recent issues in financial reporting, taxation, data analytics and ethics. Dozens of tax professionals from around the state attended this conference, benefitting from the hard work of our students.

This past fall, we also made our 15th trip to Washington, D.C., where several firms, organizations and governmental agencies delivered an experience to our students that they are sure to remember for a very long time. And as we said goodbye to 38 wonderful graduates, we welcomed a new class of 86 students ready to continue their studies as graduate students beginning in the spring.

As we moved into the spring semester, 75 of our students participated in full-time internships. As always, we are very appreciative of the firms, companies and other organizations that value our services. As the pandemic began to spread across the country, many of the internships for our students became less traditional, but certainly no less rewarding. In addition to the internship, these students participated in our minimester classes, including the initial offering of Chevis' Data and Analytics in Accounting. In this course students applied data and analytics skills to audit, tax, operations management and other accounting issues, focusing on data visualizations and applied statistics. It is also worth noting that the business school, graduate school and Provost's office approved our Certificate of Accounting Data and Analytics. We are excited about the opportunities this concentration will provide our students going forward.

While our new graduate students focused on their internships and minimester courses in the spring, our May graduates wrapped up their academic careers at Baylor exploring advanced topics in financial statement analysis, taxation, fraud and managerial accounting. And, of course, they began studying for and, in many cases, taking the CPA exam!

I would like to convey a special message to these 50 students who graduated in May. We last saw all of you as you left for spring break. Little did we know that would be the last time we saw you in person before you graduated. We are so proud of what you achieved while at Baylor and we are thankful that you trusted us with your education. You handled the last several weeks of your time at Baylor with the perfect combination of grace and maturity. And while we miss you, we cannot wait to see what you go out and do. Please know that we will always be rooting for you and that we will always be here if you ever need us.

As we wrapped up a spring semester that might best be described as memorable, we were thrilled to welcome 18 new students who began their graduate journey with us at the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year.

We started the academic year poised for change, knowing that our accounting graduate programs must continue to adapt to an ever-changing profession. We were excited and confident in our ability to develop graduates who perform at the highest level. As the year progressed, we realized that even greater influences on not just our profession, but our way of life, were in motion. We ended the academic year confident that there is no challenge too tall for us to meet. With incredible students, dedicated faculty and supportive employers, our future is very bright indeed. As I think back on the last twelve months, I am grateful to work with such tremendous colleagues and such amazing students. I have no doubt that students, faculty and supporters of our graduate programs will continue to rise to these new challenges for the foreseeable future.

As always, thank you for supporting our graduate programs.

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