For the second time in five years, a DePaul University student team has taken the top honors at a national accounting case competition for Hispanic students. They beat out 27 other college teams in a grueling audit contest that began with preparations in March.
The winning team is comprised of Evelyn Baños, Jahangir Khandwala, Karen Tellez and Jasmine Villagomez. Each team member was awarded $500 after capturing first place in the KPMG-Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA) Case Competition held in Anaheim, Calif., Aug. 7.
Their first place finish was honored at the ALPFA convention luncheon attended by more than 2,000 working professionals. It was the fourth time in 11 years that students from DePaul’s chapter of the Midwest Association of Hispanic Accountants (MAHA) took the top prize and the ninth time it participated in the final competition of the annual auditing showdown. DePaul was one of six college teams that moved to the finals after winning the regional contest.
“They were magnificent and did an extraordinary job, not only with their presentation, but also mastering the question-and-answer portion of the competition, especially considering they were the youngest team I’ve ever coached,” said Beth Murphy, an associate professor at DePaul’s School of Accountancy & Management Information Systems and the MAHA team’s faculty advisor. “KPMG’s competition has been held for 11 years and DePaul has participated in the final competition nine of those 11 years. This shows DePaul is a clear force to contend with in this competition.”
Each team was asked to tackle a unique accounting problem by assuming the role of an auditing team presenting its findings to an audit committee. The students outlined their solutions during 20-minute presentations before a panel of judges consisting of KPMG partners and ALPFA members. The judges then grilled the students during a 10-minute question-and-answer period.
“These cases were very realistic and complex. This is exactly what high-level KPMG personnel do in their jobs,” Murphy said. “Students had to understand the financial reporting and auditing implications for each of the critical accounting policies, as well as do industry research and compare their assigned company to their competitors.”
The competition was especially challenging because the team was asked to utilize junior and senior-level accounting material, even though a majority of them had just completed their freshman year and had not yet covered such material at DePaul’s College of Commerce.
The team’s case was challenging because students were required to identify overall corporate objectives, strategies and risks that could potentially impede McDonald’s Corp. from achieving its objectives. They also assessed corporate governance and reviewed critical accounting policies that included stock-based compensation practices for the international fast food chain, from the external auditors’ perspective.
The team not only relied on Murphy’s coaching but also received guidance from DePaul accounting school alumni and friends from KPMG, who offered professional advice and presentation tips. The KPMG advisors included Melina Barona, Elizabeth Byrum, Jovan Cruz, Ayaz Ebrahim, Jessica Fawcett, Terry Kenney and Kari Rios.
“DePaul should be very proud of the relationships it has built over the years with corporations such as KPMG, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms,” said Evelyn Baños, one of the three DePaul freshmen on the team. “KPMG was very willing and happy to help the team in any way possible. All of the feedback the team got from KPMG professionals was highly considered and was the reason our presentation had the correct approach with the technical accounting concepts.”
The seven other teams that competed in the finals were: Arizona State University, Texas A&M University, University of Florida, University of Maryland, University of Southern California, University of Washington and University of Texas-Austin.