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Business students learn to sort SOX
Accounting grads in high demand after one-of-a-kind training  

ATHENS, Ohio (March 29, 2007) -- Corporate accounting scandals that rocked Enron, Tyco and WorldCom at the start of the decade led to sweeping reforms in accounting practices. That opened a whole new field in accounting, and Ohio University students are uniquely poised to grab the jobs.

Named for the two congressional representatives who authored the reform bill, Sarbanes-Oxley -- or SOX, as it's often called -- was signed into law in 2002. It requires public companies to have fully independent auditors evaluate their accounting practices.

The College of Business School of Accountancy saw an opportunity in the change. It began preparing undergraduate students to tackle the audits. For the third year, teams are training for and performing SOX audits, giving students experience they can immediately apply in a job.

"We don't usually have much trouble placing accounting students, but the SOX training makes them highly sought after," Ray Stephens, director of the School of Accountancy, said.

Teams of Ohio University accounting student fellows are putting SOX skills to work by examining the practices of The Ohio University Foundation. Although the Foundation is exempt from the audit, its advisory board agreed to the examination of the internal workings.

In the first year, a team of juniors and seniors identified the Foundation's accounting checks and balances. In the second year, students tested those practices as they applied to contributions from donors. This spring the team will continue that work and begin examining Foundation disbursements, essentially making sure that a donor's wishes are carried out regarding gifts or endowments. The Foundation already has seen positive effects of the SOX audit.

"We didn't find any major faults, but we found a few things that led them to change their practices a bit," said Stephens.

The involvement of students was the brainchild of Columbus accountant and Ohio University alum Mike Fritz (BSBA, '78) of Deloitte, an audit partner for the Foundation. His intent was to expose students to the new auditing technique and make them more attractive to future employers -- including his company.

"If I could get students trained and then hire them, it's a win-win," said Fritz.

Many students are getting offers from Fritz and other firms before the end of their junior year. 

"I do think the program gives them a leg up," Fritz said. "They are coming into our firm with the equivalent of six- or eight-months' experience."

Students in the program know they are ahead of the competition.

"This program allows students access to current issues accountants are exposed to on a daily basis," senior Marc Filer said. "I feel like this gives me an edge over most candidates."

That edge certainly helped Justin Karvasky (BSBA, '06). Karvasky was a fellow in the first year of the SOX audit process and parlayed the experience into a job as an auditor with Deloitte in Columbus. As a SOX fellow, he met with Foundation employees and interviewed them to learn more about their day-to-day operations.

"The SOX program helped me learn how to effectively communicate with clients," Karvasky said. "That's an integral part of being an auditor."

"Those of us who participated in the program were ahead of those who did not have an internship when it came time for a job interview," he added.

Students are selected for the program based on their educational achievements and involvement in student activities. Each SOX fellow gets a $500 scholarship and one hour of internship credit.

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