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Accountancy students hone skills in leadership, communication thanks to Ernst & Young, alums

February 11, 2013

Ernst & Young logoWith an endowment campaign driven by College of Business alumnus Lance Smith (ACCY ’84), the Ernst & Young Leadership and Professional Development Center in Barsema Hall prepares accountancy students to be effective leaders and communicators.

“Our department does a wonderful job of educating students on the technical aspects of accounting,” says Jim Young, chair of the Department of Accountancy. “But we wanted to make a stronger commitment to developing their soft skills.”

Smith enlisted the help of 14 other Ernst & Young partners to provide a permanent endowment that will contribute to the operating budget of the center and the ongoing development of NIU graduate accountancy students. The Ernst & Young Foundation matched the individual donations – resulting in an initial endowment commitment of more than $500,000.

Using physical, virtual, and external space, the center develops the leadership and professional development skills students need in this age of constantly changing business environments.

Center consultants provide services such as feedback on written documents, mock interviews, presentation assessment and self-awareness development. Workshops on feedback delivery, facilitation skills, networking, personal branding, and email strategies are also hosted by the center.

Jeffrey Carroll is director of Leadership Development. Jennifer Butler Ellis is director of Professional Development.

Jeffrey Carroll is director of Leadership Development. Jennifer Butler Ellis is director of Professional Development.

The E&Y Leadership and Professional Development Center also coordinates with The Second City, a Chicago-based improvisational comedy club and experiential business training provider to offer students additional opportunities to develop their communication skills. Consultants from The Second City teach students improvisational skills by taking them out of the classroom and placing them on the same stage as famed comedians such as Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey.

“The Second City theater trip was very insightful. The improvisational exercises we did helped me understand the importance of ‘thinking on your feet.’ I also gained an appreciation for having sharp listening skills,” says student Ryan Sims. “I am considerably more conscious of what I say and how I say it. Through the communication exercises we did, I realized just how much slight tweaks of the same message can be interpreted many different ways.”

The Ernst &Young Leadership and Professional Development Center is open to NIU accountancy students pursuing their Master of Accounting Science (Leadership) degree.

A ribbon-cutting for the center was held in May. Several NIU accountancy alumni who are Ernst & Young partners came back to campus for the ceremony.