Being surrounded by more than 100 enthusiastic minority students and most of the more than 30 accounting faculty and 60 Ernst & Young professionals - all brought together for the firm's 5th annual Discover Tax conference last month in New York - served as a fitting start to my tenure as Accounting Today's new senior editor in charge of the Practice Resources and Accounting Tomorrow sections.

On the first night of the event, which aims to introduce diverse college students to the profession, E&Y employees took the stage to share personal stories, family pictures and - for at least half the speakers - an initial aversion to the profession. "I also had no interest in accounting," said Dan Black, director of campus recruiting, echoing earlier sentiments. "I went into it kicking and screaming."

The students, all of whom will be invited to interview for internships at the firm, appeared far more willing. If they follow the model of the previous three years - wherein 70 percent of attendees were offered internships, 90 percent of those accepted, and minority tax practice hires increased from 11 to 16 percent - their interest will go beyond laughing at the latest Jersey Shore joke during the opening presentations.

Of which there were many.

The conference presenters sought to engage the students, who had an average age of 19-1/2. Another bulleted statistic: 50 percent of them have 1,000 friends or more on Facebook. But as the welcome speeches continued, the focus turned to what differentiated the audience. "A diverse team will succeed highly or fail miserably," said Black, emphasizing that E&Y favors the gamble.

During a diversity exercise, Ken Bouyer, Americas director of inclusiveness recruiting, compared superficial first impressions to an iceberg, or "looking at someone's 20 percent."

It's a metaphor I must co-opt to express my excitement in covering the changing face of the accountant and the profession. I invite you to join me (via Facebook and Twitter: atomorrow) as we plunge below public perceptions and into accounting's 80 percent.


- Danielle Lee

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