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Inside IMA

Campus Influencers: Reaching the Next Generation

It started at a simple idea: wanting to reach U.S. college students who may not be aware of the career opportunities available in management accounting. What began as a Texas-based program spearheaded by IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) volunteer leader Jimmie Smith, CPA, and IMA director of educational partnerships Lisa Beaudoin, CMA, CSCA, CAE, in 2016 became a nationwide effort to connect IMA members with college students and share with them the benefits of IMA membership and CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification. The program thus far has proven highly successful – to date reaching nearly 6,000 students – but it’s seeking to grow and, especially, attract additional IMA members who want to volunteer to join the effort.

Explaining the purpose of the program, Smith says, “We’re aiming to leverage IMA’s extensive volunteer network to increase student awareness of management accounting and its opportunities as a career alternative, to promote the numerous benefits IMA offers to students while they're in school and throughout their career, and to ensure students understand the impact that the CMA can have on their career potential.”

The Campus Influencer program is looking for two types of individuals: volunteers who can help identify and contact colleges, universities, accounting professors, and accounting department chairs; and volunteers willing to make presentations to accounting classes and student clubs. People can choose to fill both roles – or they can elect to just make the initial contact and have someone else make the presentation.

Fortunately, IMA provides supporting resources to help Influencers get the job done. The program provides volunteers with a “turnkey” approach, including a detailed, scripted presentation; supporting documents; and marketing materials. There’s also a defined step-by-step process for how to make contact with colleges and universities; how to keep IMA staff, the local chapter, and the council in the loop; and how to maintain the relationship over time. IMA even conducts detailed training sessions for all Campus Influencers, to allow those who join the program to get personal questions asked and answered.

Since its launch in 2016, the Campus Influencer program has reached thousands of U.S. college students. During the year from spring 2016 to spring 2017, Campus Influencers conducted more than 80 presentations in 20 states, reaching approximately 4,500 students. One key indicator of success: as a result of those presentations, 168 students became IMA members and 16 students enrolled in the CMA program. During the fall 2017 semester, Campus Influencers presented to another 1,200 students at 36 events in 14 states. Again: 124 students enrolled to become IMA members.

As Smith explains, identifying targets is not as difficult as it sounds: “Members already have many contacts that would be great potential opportunities. This includes reaching out to schools that members attended, where they have ongoing relations with the school/faculty member/a student, or by developing a new relationship with a school in the area where they live.”

Chris Aquino, CMA, CFM, CPA, IMA business development manager, professor at Niagara University, is overseeing the program for IMA. He notes that the program provides benefits for both the students and those who are Influencers themselves: Students obviously learn about the advantages of certification and for certified professionals, the opportunity to help grow the name recognition of their CMA.

That sentiment is affirmed by many who are volunteers for the program. Says Campus Influencer Thomas Franci, CMA, “Whether you consider the Campus Influencer role as an opportunity to ‘pay back’ society for your career successes or ‘pay it forward’ for possible benefits later, this generation needs you. Share your expertise and make the next generation better than ours.”

An article in the August 2016 issue of Strategic Finance explains the program in more detail. IMA members interested in becoming Campus Influencers are encouraged to contact Aquino directly at chris.aquino@imanet.org.
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