The beginnings of IMA’s Academic Dinners program were modest indeed: a group of professors from the Dallas area, gathering at Babe’s Chicken Dinner House, to network and talk about IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants). Jimmie Smith, CPA, a long-time IMA volunteer leader who passed away last year, organized that initial group and he’d likely be proud of what the program has become: The last gathering met at the Union League of Philadelphia, one of the most illustrious venues in that city.  

The Academic Dinner program began in March 2018, the initiative of Smith and now-retired IMA staff member Chris Aquino. Currently, IMA business development managers Tyler Skelton and Mary Patterson organize the events, and each has responsibility for different regions of the country. 

The goal of the program, says Skelton, “is to leverage relationships in areas where we see both active IMA chapters and strong accounting/finance programs. We invite faculty from local two and four-year colleges and regional IMA members to a restaurant to network, learn, and collaborate on ways to promote IMA to students on campus.”

A typical Academic Dinner includes dinner (of course), as well as a discussion about IMA resources for the classroom, IMA programs such as scholarships and competitions, and upcoming local chapter events. There’s also plenty of time for networking; the event usually lasts about two and a half hours. 

To date, Academic Dinners have been held across the U.S. in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Portland (Ore.), Charlotte, Louisville, and Philadelphia. The number of schools and students reached to date speaks for itself: more than 140 academics have attended the gatherings, representing about 80 schools. 

The team already has dinners planned for spring 2020 in Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, and Washington, D.C.

Selecting where to hold the dinners requires some planning. Skelton and Patterson look for cities where there is a large concentration of academic institutions within a 100-mile radius. They then solicit help from the local chapter, as well as IMA Campus Influencers and IMA Campus Advocates. Invitations are sent via email and follow up is key, too. 

So far, responses have been very positive. Patterson recalls receiving feedback from one of the attendees of the Philadelphia gathering recently: “She wrote me a personal email, saying how much the event really energized her toward promoting the CMA exam and how she looks forward to taking advantage of the scholarships for students.”

In addition, Patterson noted that local chapter members at the Louisville dinner found the event so worthwhile that they discussed holding their own Academic Dinner each year. “They definitely felt that the dinner helped them to connect with their local universities, helping them to establish new relationships and nurture old ones,” she said. 

Most of the dinners have attracted between 25 and 35 people, and ideally, also include practitioners from the local chapter as well as academics. 

Academics who are interested in learning more about the program, and possibly helping to participate in a gathering, are encouraged to email Tyler Skelton at