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Long Island's College Accounting Showdown

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March 25, 2009

It was a nailbiter until the end at the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University during Margolin, Winer & Evens LLP's first annual College Accounting Challenge, but it's the students from the College at Old Westbury who will be bringing home a glass award to display in their accounting department.

Naomi Grafer, Geoviany Petit-Maitre, Vincent Tortora and Samuel Vargas were the team members who braved the stage in the Hillwood Commons Lecture Hall and faced three private schools in four rounds of questions in the areas of financial accounting, tax, audit and ethics, asked by News 12 Long Island anchor Jodi Applegate. Their final score was 1,100 points and the runner up in the competition was Adelphi University with 900 points. C.W Post ended the game with 200 points and Hofstra University claimed 100 points.

For each question answered correctly a team received 100 points. If a team was wrong, 100 points were taken away. At the end of each round, a 200-point bonus question was asked and the same rule applied.
The event kicked off with the C.W. Post Pep Band and a hilarious emcee, Bill Mann, who riled up the crowd of students, parents, and professors with jokes and prizes. After a few words from Robert Micera, the director of human services for MWE and the event's master of ceremonies, the C.W. Post's provost and Long Island University's president, the game got rolling with the introduction of teams.


Walking up to the stage with the band's rendition of Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Taking Care of Business," this crew looked ready. Each team member was sporting a shirt showcasing their school pride and as each team took their place at the podium, it was clear nerves were revved.

Between Applegate and Mann cracking jokes, and a sound machine offering effects when a team guessed wrong or right, the crowd was starting to get riled.

There were judges, of course: Mark Stone, CPA, a senior tax manager at MWE and Michael Peress, CPA, and partner-in-charge of Quality Control at MWE were in the front row and were sought quite frequently for their acceptance of an answer.

The teams seemed to have a strategy—press the buzzer as fast as possible—even before hearing the rest of the question. This would allow a team to have the first opportunity to answer and then gave whichever team member was at the microphone the chance to consult with the rest of their team, which was allowed.

Old Westbury seemed to master this strategy quite well. The team spent four weeks preparing for the competition, each week with a different professor who specialized in the four areas of the showdown.

"It wasn't about winning, it was about representing the school well," said Vargas, a senior and who already has snagged a job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Melville, Long Island.

"We're very proud of them and their hard work," said Rita Buttermilch, the faculty advisor for Old Westbury. "They would come in Mondays early and worked as a team to strategize."

John Amico, a member of the Adelphi University team, said he just focused on remembering key words during the competition. He studied with the CPA Review material and used flashcards.

"It was tough," he said. "We were given a lot of study material just for 10 questions. Each question can be tricky in itself. I think they all have their own challenges. Various different answers can answer the same question."
Amico said the competition helped prep him for an upcoming challenge—the CPA exam. He, too, accepted a job in PwC's Melville office.

"We are graduating and have to take the exam," he said. "It was helpful that the challenge covered each of the areas on the exam."

Tracey Segarra, MWE's director of marketing, who coordinated the event with Micera, said it was apparent the students knew their stuff. As for organizing such an event right at the end of tax season, she said busy season doesn't affect marketing and HR.

"We have no tax season," she said of the two departments. "We did have to ask the partners to vet the questions, but they were able to fit it into their schedules. No matter the season, it's always a good season to meet bright, young accounting students."

"It was far better than anything I could have expected," said Teddy Selinger, MWE's managing partner.

To see photos from the event, visit our Facebook page.

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