Jenkins MAC Program Embraces DEI Efforts – and Students are Taking Note
By Caroline Barnhill
When thinking of highly diverse industries, accounting doesn’t always come top of mind. Poole College’s Jenkins MAC Program wants to change that.
“We work very hard to increase the diversity of students in the MAC Program. While that is an important first step, it’s not sufficient to help improve the diversity of the accounting profession,” says Scott Showalter, director of the Jenkins MAC Program. “It is critical for each student to be able to envision their place in the accounting profession. Our DEI efforts strive to demonstrate the challenges they will face and how others have achieved success.”
Jessica Moran, the program’s assistant director of academic programming, agrees.
“We recognize there is a stereotype that comes to mind when people think of an accountant, but that’s not necessarily reflective of where the profession is heading. Companies, in general, are becoming increasingly diverse and they want their accounting teams to be reflective of that as well,” explains Moran.
But leaders like Moran know it won’t happen overnight – or by accident. In recent years, college leadership has worked to be more intentional in their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. In 2021, the college appointed Tayah Butler as its first DEI director, formed a DEI Council and opened a Diversity and Inclusion Hub within Nelson Hall. As for the Jenkins MAC program, various initiatives, events and curriculum updates have been introduced in an effort to apply a DEI lens in an accounting context.
“I meet with Tayah on a regular basis to ensure we’re connecting the amazing DEI initiatives the college is putting together – whether it’s a banner on the building honoring GLBT Pride Month or an upcoming speaker series – to our own initiatives within the MAC program,” Moran says. “It’s a very purposeful connection.”
Each month, MAC students receive a newsletter that highlights various DEI initiatives underway in the college, spotlights accounting professionals with diverse backgrounds and promotes upcoming DEI events. Within the classroom, MAC faculty are working to incorporate DEI into their teaching methods and curriculum to more broadly reflect the diverse identities of current – and future – accountants.
“It can be as simple as considering what images faculty members use in classroom PowerPoint presentations to purposefully selecting casework that spotlights underrepresented minorities as the CEO or decision-maker,” Moran explains. “And now, thanks to video conferencing, our faculty can also bring in more diverse thought leaders from the accounting profession that better reflect the makeup of the students listening.”
Additionally, during this academic year, the Jenkins MAC program hosted two separate panel discussions – one focused on ethnicity and race, and the other on women in the accounting profession. All of these efforts, Moran hopes, celebrate the diversity that currently exists within the accounting industry while also acknowledging areas of challenge and opportunities for advancement.
Another means of advancing the DEI mission is by ensuring the MAC Advisory Board reflects the makeup of the student body. Advisory boards – across industries – are striving to ensure more diverse voices are being heard, and the Jenkins MAC program is following suit.
“As we graduate a more diverse group of students, we want to bring in fresh voices with unique perspectives. We don’t want our DEI efforts to be done in isolation – instead, our goal is for these efforts to be woven throughout our program from beginning to end,” Moran says. “And the feedback we’re receiving from our MAC students is that they are aware of the progress we’re making and appreciate it. We try to maintain a humble posture toward this topic knowing we’re not going to get it right all the time – so the feedback from our students is immensely helpful as we continue to grow in this area.”
This post was originally published in MAC Program.