Chazanoff School Continues Building a Tradition through the Pandemic with Its Annual Accounting Career & Internship Fair

A screen shot from the 2021 Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business Accounting Career & Internship Fair

Meeting in a virtual format for the second year in a row, the Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business held its annual Accounting Career & Internship Fair on Friday, October 29, 2021. The Fair has become a tradition for the School, generally being held on the last Friday in October.  Professor Patricia Galletta, Deputy Chair of the Department of Accounting and Finance, leads the effort each year to organize the event that brings accounting students – and students from other disciplines as well – together with alumni and potential employers for an intense series of one-on-one interviews, discussions, and collegial conversations. The event has a legacy stretching back at least a decade, to well before the formation of the School of Business, but Professor Galletta has revamped and expanded the Fair in recent years. Usually held in the Green Dolphin Lounge in the Campus Center, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a transition to a virtual format in 2020, which continued this year.

Beginning promptly at 8:45am and running throughout the day, almost 40 aspiring accountants logged in to Zoom to connect with representatives from around 20 companies. Along with these recruiters and students, another 20 enthusiastic, loyal alumni and their colleagues participated in the event to share wisdom and answer questions about their transition from campus to corporate life. Despite having only attended the School of Business for four semesters more than a decade ago, Sheron Elliott, who is now an Audit Manager at Fidelity Investments, so wanted to be a part of the event and support current students that he signed on while on a trip to the West Coast. Similarly, Randika Alwis, a recent Chazanoff graduate who is now a tax associate at BKD CPAs and Advisors, joined the session from Illinois. Alwis remembered his own experience of the Fair as a student, recalling that “the information alumni shared … helped me immensely to find the right career path for me and successfully land my first job.”

Chazanoff Accounting graduate Matt DiRusso, who recently earned his JD and passed the NY Bar Exam, and currently serves as a Senior Associate at PwC, participated in the live discussion sessions and had also assisted with the event by reviewing students’ resumes and offering suggestions beforehand. This is not the first time that DiRusso has substantially contributed to the Fair; Alwis remembered him from last year’s event, noting that “Matt DiRusso had a meeting with me after and went through my resume line by line and updated it.”  Other alumni also stepped in to directly assist current students; another Accounting graduate, Ibraheam Abdelrazeq, said that he was “pleased that a student followed up via LinkedIn” and that they had a discussion after the Fair. About the job search process, Ibraheam Abdelrazeq went on to say that “you feel like you’re alone but you’re not. …  I was never alone because I had the support and guidance of my professors at the School of Business.”

Bianca Johnson, who graduated from the Chazanoff School in May 2020, also recalled receiving assistance, saying that she was “very grateful to the School of Business and Matt [DiRusso]” for encouraging her to apply for a position at Grant Thornton, where she now works, as well as for helping her during the interview process. For his own part, DiRusso stated that he participates in the Fair because he remembers his own experiences as an accounting student, looking toward his future in the profession. “I was confused, didn’t feel confident in my professional future, and the search for full-time employment was overwhelming,” he says.  DiRusso notes that through the Fair, he “learned about different professions within the accounting industry and had the chance to speak with alumni who successfully transitioned from students to employees.”

Chazanoff baccalaureate and graduate alumnus Richard Pallarino, who will shortly assume his promotion to Vice President of Internal Audit for Product Control (Finance) at Citi, also expressed his support for the annual event. “I just believe in giving back to the place that helped me get to where I am today,” he said. “It’s nice to stay in touch and connect with former students, but to attend and provide some advice to a student looking for employment is something special. It’s their moment of search and hopefulness that they secure employment upon graduation. It’s my moment to help them reach their goals. It’s very special to me to assist any and all CSI students who welcome my input.” One of Pallarino’s graduate classmates, Mohamed Hussein, noted that “the job market can be intimidating, but speaking with individuals who took different paths to success provides great assurance.”

Cindy Wing-Yee Cambio, now a tax auditor working for the NYC Department of Finance, joined the alumni group early in the morning and remained available to speak to current students for several hours. She advocated strongly for working in the public sector, saying that she “would like to see more CSI students in civil service who want to serve the people and make CSI proud.” First-time recruiter and School of Business baccalaureate and graduate alumna Kelly Zaia, from non-profit service agency Your Part-Time Comptroller, also encouraged students to consider opportunities beyond private companies and corporations, noting that those who attended were “engaged, professional, and eager to learn more about the accounting field.” Zaia also praised them for being “on the right track to find that perfect job that will lead them to a long successful career.”

Representatives from financial and accounting firms including BDO, Citrin Cooperman, Reliant Fund Services, Prager Metis, and Rotenberg Meril spent several hours speaking with students in individual interviews, while accounting alumni interacted in simultaneous sessions. In a special session alongside the interviews, members of the Criminal Investigation Unit of the IRS described their career paths and day-to-day activities, and spoke about how to begin the process of looking for employment within the Federal government.

The value of networking and heeding the advice of professionals in the field was emphasized by several participants, from both the student group and the alumni who attended. Katherine Brigandi, Senior Internal Auditor at the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, who graduated from the School of Business in 2013, recommended that current students devote time to networking, along with “[making] an effort to learn about professionals’ experiences and about various companies in order to make the most informed decisions regarding their career paths.”

Current Chazanoff student Barbara Walek shared that the Fair “was such a nice event, with a lot of possibilities for networking and talking with recruiters.” She added that “the most inspiring and motivating aspect of the event was the alumni group meeting. It is amazing that a lot of people are back and want to share their experiences [with current students] and help us with our careers as well.”

The event aims to not only allow students access to internship possibilities, but also to prepare them for full careers. Nicole Lugero, an Accounting student who took part in the Fair in 2020, was offered multiple internships as a result of the interviews that she participated in on that day. She was able to accept two of them, which resulted in full-time offers for when she graduates this coming May. Lugero shared her appreciation for the opportunities that the Accounting Career & Internship Fair provides, adding, “having a position offered to me before completion of my degree is something that I never thought was possible. I truly believe that I would not have had it without [Professor Galletta’s] help.”

Chazanoff School students had been preparing for weeks under the guidance of Professor Galletta, CSI alumna and adjunct faculty member Orumé Hays, and staff members from the CSI Center for Career and Professional Development. On Thursday afternoon, the day before the Fair, Professor Galletta held a last-minute preparation session and pep talk for students, offering key professional development insights and mentoring. Since planning for the event begins during the spring semester, she wants to ensure that students are as well-prepared as possible on the big day.

Dr. Susan L. Holak, Founding Dean of the Chazanoff School of Business, applauded Professor Galletta for her leadership, dedication, and stamina, noting that “the Accounting Career & Internship Fair has expanded tremendously from the events that we offered in the past, and even from the Fairs that we held in person just prior to the pandemic.” Echoing the success of the transition to the online environment, Debra Wrightington, who represented first-time participants Rotenberg Meril at the event, stated that this was “by far the most organized” virtual career fair that she had ever attended.

Summing up the event, Dr. Holak stated that “it is marvelous to see our successful alumni, who have benefitted from the experience as students, return to give back by supporting the success of those to follow. Students and alumni alike have tremendous respect and admiration for Professor Galletta who is exceptionally dedicated to her students.”

Always keen to continue building this important program for Chazanoff students, Professor Galletta has developed follow-up surveys and other opportunities for feedback that will inform her planning for future events. Her diligence and tremendous dedication to student success is clear from the way she approaches this event. “I work on the Fair because I want our students to be given opportunities to succeed,” she says. “Our students are intelligent and they work hard, and it makes me feel good when we are a part of making their dreams come true.”

By Warrick Bell