Accountancy class project approach sharpens students’ real-world view

Once each academic semester, Dr. Sonia Gantman, assistant professor of accountancy, provides her accountancy students a valuable, real-world business experience through a hands-on term project. In her course, Accounting Information Systems, a required class for accountancy majors, students work in small teams with organizations on and off campus to study and analyze their business processes and help them to improve their methods.

“The goal of the project is to give the students an opportunity to work with real-world organizations and compare what they learned in class with what happens outside of class,” said Gantman, who said 30 to 40 students enroll in her class each semester.

She continued, “Finding a client organization on their own, interviewing people about their jobs, dealing with logistics contingencies, and handling interdependencies within the team are all invaluable experiences gained from the project that help students get a better grasp of the profession and prepare them to the job market.”

During the Fall 2016 semester, each student group studied the buying and other processes within one of four businesses: Peter Pan Bus Lines, the New England Patriots’ ProShop, PC’s Phillips Memorial Library, and the College’s Raymond Dining Hall. In studying the processes, the students aimed to identify problems with their client’s current methods and help them to become more efficient in their buying.

Therese Nessralla ’18 (Raynham, Mass.) explained that while working on the Raymond Dining Hall project, her group learned how the cafeteria operates its purchasing and inventory management by interviewing the unit controller, John LaBreche of Sodexho, the College’s food services provider.

In order to create a flow chart of purchasing activity, her group asked detailed questions concerning the recording process, the cafeterias vendors, and any delays that might impede purchasing.

Nessralla explained how learning about business methods, such as purchasing, in the context of a real business was not what she expected in her class.

“It is surprising to see why a process is done a certain way, whether it is for cost-efficiency, timeliness, and/or accuracy,” said Nessralla. “I also find it interesting to see how many risks we face in order to do business. The most challenging part is being extremely thorough and trying to detect risks that we normally do not think about.”

While working with the New England Patriots’ ProShop, Kathleen Cronin ’18 (York, Maine) explained that her team worked with a different type of inventory process called “complimentary item process.” Through this process, team members analyzed how the ProShop updated its inventory when items were given to visitors of the stadium as complimentary gifts.

From left, the team of Kellie Roach ’17, Lauryn Picknelly ’18, Brenna Williams ’18, and Jake Beaton ’18 studied processes at the Peter Pan bus company as part of the Accountancy Information Systems course.

Cronin discussed how working with the ProShop built off her classroom lessons and put them into the context of the business world.

“Throughout the interview, my group and I could envision ourselves taking on the inventory process and creating a detailed flowchart that would represent it,” said Cronin. “In the classroom we were able to see how the flowcharts and context diagrams worked, but by working with a business we were challenged to take what we knew and create our own narrative, context diagram, and flowchart.”

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Ex-Major Leaguer advises student-athletes to build relationships, brand

As a former 16-year Major League Baseball (MLB) infielder and now a coordinator with the Cleveland Indians organization, John McDonald ’10SCE knows a thing or two about sustaining a successful professional career. 

McDonald recently shared his hard-won wisdom with nearly 100 Providence College student-athletes who attended Student-Athlete Career Night in Slavin Center ’64 Hall.

Held every two years, Student-Athlete Career Night gives student-athletes from the junior and senior classes a chance to network with and gain valuable advice from more than 40 professionals and life coaches from various career fields. Professions represented included sports administration, marketing, education, finance, insurance, information technology, medicine, sales, and law. Twenty-eight of this year’s career night participants were alumni.

Coordinated by the Department of Athletics, the Center for Career Education and Professional Development, and the Office of Academic Services, Student-Athlete Career Night was made possible through the support of athletics benefactors Yvette Boisclair ’84 and Mark Mandell, who have sponsored the event since its inception in 2008. Boisclair and Mandell are attorneys with Mandell Schwartz & Boisclair, Ltd, in Providence.

The evening commenced with Robert G. Driscoll, Jr., associate vice president for athletics and athletics director, welcoming the student-athletes and guests and conveying how the consistent support of Boisclair and Mandell has paved the way for countless student-athletes to begin their career journeys.

“Friar student-athletes spend four years playing a sport that they love. When they graduate, we want them to find a career that they are equally passionate about. Ultimately, it’s about pursuing a life of meaning, and that has always been the ethos of Providence College,” said Driscoll.

Mandell told the student-athletes that this was their night to build their futures.

“Our goal is to make sure every student-athlete who comes to PC lands a job. This night is about the fellowship and establishing relationships that could make a difference,” he said.

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Mulcahy: Chemistry department, students to prosper from 1st NSF grant

Dr. Seann Mulcahy, associate professor of chemistry, takes an outside view when analyzing the value of his initial National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. 

The first faculty member in the Providence College Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry to earn an individual NSF grant, Mulcahy is thrilled by what the honor means to his department and the research students he mentors.

The $191,371 award from the NSF’s Chemical Synthesis Program will fund collaborative research on Mulcahy’s project, “RUI: Synthesis of Isomeric Carbolines by Tandem Palladium Catalysis.” The three-year grant, which runs through August 2019, is the most significant research award Mulcahy has received to date. It builds on previous awards from the National Institutes of Health’s Rhode Island IDeA Network for Excellence in Biomedical Research program, the American Chemical Society, and the Rhode Island Foundation.

“We are collaborative scientists in chemistry,” he said. “We necessarily involve undergraduates in our scholarship. It is important to provide funding for them to conduct research in our labs.” He emphasized that colleagues in his department “are passionate about what we do” and that awards like the NSF grant are integral to faculty research and undergraduate opportunities.

Mulcahy explained that the NSF’s focus is on “high-impact science” that carries broad applicability for other researchers, students, and for society. NSF grants provide “a training mechanism for students. Research fits into a larger set of goals. Liberal arts institutions like Providence College are positioned for that.”

Mulcahy’s project currently involves five students, who receive credit during the academic year. Funding also will cover research by two students each summer.

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Chislom ’17 turns fellowship experience into community project

A Providence College student who participated in the 2016 Humanity in Action Fellowship program is taking that experience to the next level.

Cassandra M. Chislom ’17 (Boston, Mass.) is collecting books for high school students as a component of Humanity in Action. The monthlong summer program brings together international groups of college students and recent college graduates to explore national histories of injustice and how those histories — along with current political and economic situations — impact minority groups today.

As part of the program, fellows are asked to design an action project that will impact the community. Chislom plans to provide books on role models to 360 High School in Providence, a secondary school dedicated to immersing students in real-world learning experiences and civic involvement. She hopes the books will “tell the stories of marginalized voices” — people of color and women.

Chislom noted that she read many books written by black scholars during her summer fellowship and wants others to share in this transformative experience.

“I realized how important it is, as a student of color, to learn about other people of color’s lives and personal experiences as a way to be informed about my own history, and to seek a better understanding of who I am as a person,” said Chislom, who is a double major in political science and in public and community service studies.

Chislom is currently in the book-collection stage of her project and is working toward finding space to store them in the school.

By giving students access to books about role models, Chislom wants teens of color to discover their potential by experiencing the same self-reflection and empowerment that she encountered during the fellowship.

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