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Secretary Epstein visits Appalachian, praises accounting department and its students

By Elisabeth Wall

BOONE—Appalachian State University’s Department of Accounting received high praise last week from Secretary Jeff Epstein of the N.C. Department of Revenue. “You should be very proud of the reputation of this department,” he told department chair Doug Roberts. “Your people are very much in demand.”

View larger imageN.C. Department of Revenue Secretary Jeff Epstein, left, chats informally with accounting major Eli Flynt, a senior from Yadkinville. Photo by Marie Freeman, Appalachian State University photographer

While the state official was in Boone Friday, Aug. 26, he visited with Chancellor Sheri N. Everts, toured the construction site for the new Beaver College of Health Sciences facility with Founding Dean Fred Whitt and paid a visit to Roberts in the Walker College of Business.

Epstein said he and Everts talked at length about college affordability; he commended her hard work supporting the Connect NC bond and applauded “that wonderful partnership with the hospital,” the latter a reference to the BCHS facility under construction on a site donated by Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. The facility is the first bond project to get underway.

“The secretary and I talked about efforts to increase teachers’ pay and our commitment to holding tuition steady over the four years of a student’s time here,” Everts said. “He commented on how critical education is to the efficiency and productivity of the workforce. He recognized the value of Appalachian’s sustainable, Mountaineer culture, as do I, and the work ethic and positive attitude displayed by our students.”

Roberts concurred about the character of Appalachian’s students, speaking from his experiences with the accounting students he interacts with daily. “I have come to accept the idea that our students are different,” Roberts said. “Comments [from potential employers] are consistently, ‘We like App because we like what we get… a good work ethic, humility, no sense of entitlement. They want to come in, get to work and do a good job.”

Appalachian students have consistently achieved high pass rates on the CPA exam, often far exceeding the national average. And, in the Spring 2016 semester, over 90 students completed internships, many of which led to permanent, full-time job offers.

Epstein said the N.C. Department of Revenue has a hard time competing in the job market with some of the larger accounting firms. “We’re beginning to understand the new workforce is not motivated by the same things. But, it’s a little like turning a giant tanker ship – this idea of flexibility is a new one. We have to realize we can no longer measure our employees by the eight hours they are chained to a desk… The younger people I work with are eager to integrate work with life. Today it’s, ‘I will gladly reply to an email at 10 p.m., but then tomorrow afternoon when I have things to do, you have to work with me,’” he explained. Another challenge, he said is, “this generation wants to make progress and move up. We need to look at ways to be sure that happens.”

A student’s POV

Before Epstein’s meeting with Roberts, he chatted with accounting major Eli Flynt, a senior from Yadkinville, in the corridor of Peacock Hall. Following his conversation with the secretary, Flynt offered some comments that dovetailed with many of the secretary’s observations:

On the state’s compensation: “I would work for the state only if the starting salary was about the same as other entry-level accounting jobs. The things that attract me to the revenue department are the good hours, the goods benefits of state employment, and the nature of the people I have met from the revenue department. They are great people.”

On our students’ work ethic: “I have worked at Bojangles’, held professional positions as a student math tutor, a sales representative at the Rainbow Cleaning Systems office in my hometown, and I worked this past summer in the Accounting Department of Hanes Companies in Winston-Salem.”

On student appreciation: “Shout outs to Leslie Faistl, CPA, and Dr. Donna Harbour of Surry Community College, also to Dr. Brackney, Dr. Whitmer and Dr. Eller at the accounting department at App. The faculty in the accounting department at App have had a positive impact in my life.”

About the Walker College of Business

The Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University delivers transformational educational experiences that prepare and inspire students to be ethical, innovative and engaged business leaders who positively impact our community, both locally and globally. The college places emphasis on international experiences, sustainable business practices, entrepreneurial programs, and real-world applications with industry. Enrolling approximately 2,800 undergraduates in nine majors and nearly 150 graduate students, the Walker College is consistently named one of “The Best Business Schools” by The Princeton Review and is accredited by AACSB International – the premier global accrediting body for schools of business.

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low faculty-to-student ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.