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Durango Building, UTSA Downtown Campus
(Photo by Patrick Ray Dunn)

UTSA College of Business program matches students with small businesses

By James M. Benavides
Public Affairs Specialist

(June 9, 2009)--In spring 2008, the UTSA College of Business piloted a new program to give upper-level accounting students the real-world experience they would need to enter the work force. At the same time, UTSA's Small Business Development Center expanded the number of start-up and growing businesses they could assist in implementing best practices in business accounting.

Accounting 4963: Experiential Lab in Accounting, a course offered for three semesters, pairs UTSA accounting students with SBDC clients, enriching the students' educational experiences while reaching out to small businesses to help drive their success.

"Employers commonly express concerns that students are not prepared for real-world situations," said Gary Bridges, the UTSA senior lecturer in accounting who oversees the class. "Education and industry both say that internships are the right channel for getting these students the experience they will need on the job. Unfortunately, not every student can get an internship."

During the pilot semester, accounting professor James Groff contacted the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy (TSBPA), the state credentialing agency for certified public accountants. The agency agreed to treat the class as an internship, counting toward the educational requirements to sit for the CPA exam. Additionally, the Experiential Learning Lab in Accounting earned the attention of the American Accounting Association, and Bridges will present a paper on the class at the organization's annual meeting in August.

Creating internship opportunities required reaching out to the small business community. To make that connection, Bridges approached the SBDC, headquartered at the UTSA Downtown Campus. Funded by the Small Business Administration and the state, SBDC provides support for entrepreneurs by consulting with them on fundamentals of business and basic business accounting.

UTSA's SBDC does not have the staffing to provide follow-up consulting with all of the clients who request it, so the partnership with the College of Business became a win-win, a real-world experience for the students and additional support for SBDC clients. Since the pilot course, the Central and South Texas Minority Business Council also partnered with UTSA, providing the names of clients requesting assistance.

"Too many small business owners cannot afford the time or money it takes to put in place the proper bookkeeping and accounting procedures," said Tom Hansis, SBDC senior business adviser. "This internship program helps our clients with solutions for operating a small business."

The students may help clients with the installation and implementation of typical accounting software used by many small businesses. Their other duties may include preparing charts of account, employee time tracking, bank reconciliations, purchasing issues, receivables and payables accounting, preparation of financial statements, budgeting, cash flow management, inventory management and internal controls.

In the evaluation of the pilot course, Bridges observed a recurring theme: the emergence of unanticipated, unstructured problems. These real-world situations, Bridges said, are what push the students to grow.

For more information on ACC 4963: Experiential Learning Lab in Accounting, call Gary Bridges in the Department of Accounting at (210) 458-5399 or speak with an adviser at (210) 458-4562.

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