Professional Program in Accounting strives to build relationships with major firms to give UTD students high-profile opportunities

10 months ago
Ariana Hadden
Mercury Staff

The Professional Program in Accounting hosted an alumni event to celebrate its tenth anniversary at UTD and its overall 90 percent acceptance rate for PPA students into public accounting internships and jobs since the start of the program.

Amy Troutman, the director of the PPA at UTD, founded the program in 2007. The program has grown in size from 30 in the first year to almost 100 this year. She said despite the stress of facilitating public accounting firms’ recruiting process, the program offers a strong support network for students pursuing a career in public accounting.

“It’s a community of like-minded students that are all headed in the same direction professionally and it gives them the opportunity to walk through their three years on campus as a group,” Troutman said.

Students enter the PPA program in the fall semester of their junior year, and accounting firms recruit them in the spring semester for an internship that will take place the following spring. After their senior year, students continue at UTD for another year to complete their master’s in accounting.

Troutman drew from the structure of the PPA program at the University of Texas at Austin when she set up the program at UTD.

“I recognized that while other universities had this program, we didn’t and we needed it to make the connection with the firms … so that our students were getting the same opportunities that other students were at other universities,” Troutman said.

Students prepare for spring recruiting by attending professional development workshops. During recruitment they attend information sessions, cocktail events, dinners and social events to network with the firms’ representatives, who then arrange on-campus interviews with the students.

PPA’s Associate Director Elizabeth Pigg said the sometimes-difficult process of accounting firm recruitment is made easier for UTD PPA students through Troutman’s relationship with the firms.

“The public accounting streaming process is very streamlined and very specific,” Pigg said. “When (Troutman) developed this program, she took it upon herself to make and keep a personal relationship with the firms so that we are not just another school on their list to recruit from.”

Troutman’s previous position at the accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers made forming personal relationships with the firms easy, as she already knew people through work. She keeps those relationships intact by scheduling lunch dates and other events.

“The firms would get frustrated that they couldn’t easily identify the good candidates,” Troutman said. “With starting the program, I was really just the matchmaker. I put all the great students who are interested in working at these firms in a bucket, make sure they’re all polished up and look good, then court (the firms) and make sure they are ready to recruit (the students).”

The program has a 75 percent rate of student placement in top five accounting firms. Pigg said it still takes a lot of work behind the scenes to keep the program moving forward.

“In the fall and spring we spend all our time helping the students,” she said. “In the summer, we … check in with the firms to make sure they are happy with our students and make sure recruiting goes smoothly.”

Troutman said while PPA provides current UTD students with career opportunities, the program also relies heavily on the support and participation of alumni.

“The only thing I ever ask for (from the alumni) is constant love and appreciation,” she said. “We want to make sure they come back on campus and recruit, and make sure they’re representing the firm well. We’ve always just asked for support.”

Every year the program hosts an alumni event in which PPA graduates come out to represent the accounting firms they’ve joined as well as network with the current members of the program. This years’ event was held on Sept. 22. About 100 alumni were in attendance.

“It might be one of my favorite days of the year,” Troutman said. “All these alums show up and are happy with their jobs and successful. They are headed in such great directions, and I think there are very few jobs and career paths in this world that you can get that sort of self-satisfaction from helping people out.”

Accounting and finance graduate student Melissa Huang said she heard about the PPA program from a friend and decided to apply two years ago. Through the program, Huang has gotten internships as well as a job. 

“I know I am not alone when I say that I am eternally thankful for all (Troutman’s) hard work and tireless efforts to genuinely help each student in the program,” Huang said.

Although Troutman works to maintain good relationships with the firms, she said the program owes all of its success to the students.

“The one reccurring theme that we get from the firms is the fact that our students are not just hard working, but genuine and humble and thankful for the opportunity they’re given,” Troutman said. “When you are in the corporate world, you don’t get those warm and fuzzy opportunities very often, and that’s the greatest thing about my job.”