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The perks of joining the club: Highlights from UAA’s Accounting Club

by cmmyers  |   

UAA Accounting Club board members. From left: Vice President Sam Loyer, Secretary Daniel Lee, Director of Programs Ismail Chettfour and President Ivan Jannah Nate. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

It's a little before 1 p.m. on a Wednesday in early October and students are filling up Rasmuson Hall 207. Ivan Jannah Nate is a senior majoring in accounting and minoring in international business. As president of Accounting Club at UAA (AC at UAA), she greets students at the door for AC's first fall meeting before heading up to the front of the room to introduce the club's guest speakers. AC is hearing from representatives from the Alaska Society of Certified Public Accountants (AKCPA) - a national network with a local Alaska chapter - that connects accounting professionals from all over the country.

The day's topic? Marijuana. Specifically, how accountants and CPAs must navigate new tax law with the new and burgeoning marijuana industry in Alaska. According to the guest speaker, it's complicated, but something every current and new accountant must have an in-depth understanding of so they can advise clients in the state's newest industry.

To an outsider, this might be surprising - that accountants would be on the frontlines of an emerging industry - but to accountants, this is just part of the job, and they know they are a vital piece of any business, whether that's marijuana, oil and gas or technology. Because every business, no matter what sector, needs accountants.

And this, according to Ivan Jannah Nate, is why AC at UAA is so important to UAA students. The club provides exposure to all the possibilities an accounting degree can provide and gives accounting majors a chance early on in their college life to start networking with local and national firms and businesses.

UAA Accounting Club President Ivan Jannah applauds as her fellow club members win raffle prizes courtesy of the Alaska Society of CPAs during the club's first meeting of the semester. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

"When I started out in accounting I had no idea what accounting was or what the business perspective was, but since joining, the AC has provided a lot of opportunities," said Jannah Nate. She joined AC as a sophomore, attending meetings and volunteering her time at the many events the club hosts throughout the year. She eventually rose through the club's leadership ranks and became president this year. "We give students the opportunity to have contact with these CEOs, partners and accounting professionals, and help them build that network that they'll need to have throughout their career - and we give them insight into the business."

Calling all accounting majors

AC at UAA is one of the university's longest running clubs on campus. It's been active for 20-plus years and is one of the most established and well connected of UAA's student clubs. The AC network has helped launch the careers of hundreds of UAA accounting students over the years, across the state and beyond.  

"The students are so fun, engaging and excited - and they have such a large role on campus," said Stasia Straley, associate professor of accounting, who's served as an advisor for the AC for the past 10 years. "Their club is such a model for other clubs because they do so many activities - they are so good at networking and well established. It's a great club to be a part of."

An Accounting Club at UAA member reviews literature from the Alaska Society of CPAs during the club's first meeting of the semester. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

In addition to being one of the more established clubs on campus, it is also one of the largest clubs, with about 92 students signed up for the fall semester. Students can apply for semester or yearlong memberships to the club, but at the beginning of a new academic year, each club member must submit a new application to continue membership.

Membership into the club is $15 for a semester and $20 for the year, a small fee to help support major club events, like bringing in representatives from the accounting community to provide lectures and the two major networking events the club hosts each year - the fall and spring social. In addition, AC provides students with tutoring, smaller events like movie nights, and a support network of students experiencing the same classes and challenges.

"We accept anyone who is interested in joining," said Sam Loyer, AC's secretary and a senior in the program, who's double majoring in accounting and finance. He joined AC because he knew of the career networking opportunities the club provides, and also to have a sense of community. "I mostly wanted to get involved here because I live in Wasilla. Often I'd go straight home after class, but I could volunteer with AC events going on and make some friends with people in my classes and get to know them outside of class."

A major event

UAA's AC fall social is the club's premier event of the season. It's what accounting students look forward to, as well as the accounting community. But for the team that puts it on, it's a big deal and an all hands on deck situation.

Accounting Club at UAA's Fall Social is the student club's premiere event. Members have the opportunity to meet with industry professionals from local and national accounting firms. (Photo courtesy of Accounting Club at UAA)

Planning starts in April or early May, and takes a tremendous amount of work. Ismail Chettfour, this year's AC director of programs and a senior in the accounting program, also minoring in Alaska business management and economics, had the task of leading this year's event.

Accounting Club at UAA volunteers help register attendees for the Fall Social that was held at the Hard Rock Cafe earlier this fall. (Photo courtesy of Accounting Club at UAA)

"It went really well, but it's kind of stressful; there's a lot of pressure surrounding the fall social," said Chettfour. He said about 120 accounting majors and industry professionals attended the event at the Hard Rock Cafe. The event kicks off the beginning of Recruiting Week, an intense five days for UAA accounting juniors and seniors looking to secure internships and jobs at local and national accounting firms. "The fall social pretty much facilitates students meeting their potential employers and gives them a chance to have some one-on-one time before interviews during Recruiting Week."

Additional perks

"For my own personal experience, AC and being involved in the club has definitely made me a much better student overall," said Daniel Lee, who started as a mechanical engineering major, but switched to accounting after three years. "I always thought I was a hard worker, but as a college student it's pretty easy to get off task, and AC really helped me with that. There's a lot of work that we do and deadlines we have to meet, needing to be organized - that's really reflected in my classes now."

Lee said being involved in AC pushes him to work hard. He knows that all of the skills he's learning in his position as secretary will help when he's in his career down the road.

The AC leadership team said the bonus perks of being in a club on campus are the friendships they've made, having a support network and learning to be extremely organized on top of their school responsibilities.

Although AC is focused on accounting students, they do take volunteers from non-accounting students when the club is involved in larger campuswide events. The AC leadership team encourages students to get involved in clubs early on, especially if there is one specific to a major, because often those clubs are providing career and networking opportunities for students.

"Find some club on campus here so you can start building your own community," said Loyer. "Get involved because it's easy to disassociate, but any involvement on campus is great because it broadens your horizons and opens up the possibilities that are available to you out there."

Written by Catalina Myers, UAA Office of University Advancement

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