“Nudging” Accounting Students Forward


Marc Giullian, PhD, MSU Jake Jabs College of Business & Entrepreneurship

One of the challenges we face as accounting educators in Montana is “nudging” accounting students forward in their professional development. Their professional development is important because accounting students of today will be tomorrow’s leaders. This “nudging” is best accomplished by a choir of many voices rather than a single voice. As educators, we strive to develop knowledge of critical concepts and principles new CPAs need when they leave their college campus and set foot in the professional world. This knowledge is important to their progress, but it is only one of many skills needed for success. Helping students develop an understanding of the professional environment is harder to accomplish in the classroom than helping them learn that debits go on the left! I have thought many times, while talking to students about the importance of developing professionalism, that they see me as their parent rather than their professor—and we all know the tendency of older teens/young adults when it comes to listening to parents!  When it comes to motivating professional development, CPAs have “street cred” that students typically don’t give to accounting educators. What are some ways CPAs can get involved in the development of up-and-coming professionals? Here are a few brief suggestions:

  1. Consider offering internships or expanding existing internship programs. Most (if not all) schools in Montana offer credit to students for internship. Students gain the benefit of learning about the day-to-day operations of the accounting profession that will enhance their recognition of the relevance of what they are studying in their classes. Employers benefit by having the opportunity to evaluate the potential of interns as future employees—and that can reduce the risk of the hiring decision.
  2. Be a speaker at an accounting club meeting. Accounting clubs around the state are always looking for professionals to come and speak to their clubs. These meetings are usually in the evening and typically don’t conflict with the work day.
  3. Be a guest speaker in a class. From time to time, accounting faculty seek guest speakers who can share their expertise with students.
  4. Attend student-related events sponsored by the MSCPA that provide an opportunity for soon-to-be-graduates to rub shoulders with professionals from their communities. Annual events currently take place in Billings, Missoula and Bozeman.

Perhaps you would like to get involved, but you don’t know exactly what to prepare in terms of a presentation. The AICPA has prepared resources available on the website ThisWayToCPA.com/resources to assist those seeking ideas to use for presentations about the accounting profession and becoming a CPA.

Having a strong group of up-and-coming professionals to step into the roles and positions opening from the departure of those who have reached the end of their careers is vital for the stability for the accounting profession in Montana. It is also vital for the strength of the economy in Montana. Reconnect with a favorite professor or take the time to get to know new accounting educators at the nearest college. When accounting educators and practicing CPAs work together, everyone wins.

Work Life: Finding your Balance in Montana

by: Molly Holahan, Communications Director at the Montana Society of CPAs

We hear from members all the time that you have trouble finding the talent you need to move your business forward.  One way the MSCPA is addressing this issue is the MontanaConnection campaign.

The goals of this campaign are:

  • Keep Montana Accounting/Finance graduates in Montana
  • Connect job seekers with the perfect Montana Company
  • Promote work life balance and all of Montana’s amazing outdoor recreation


How do we accomplish these goals? Since May 1st, the MSCPA has been driving web traffic to the MontanaConnection website.  Professionals that are typing in the phrase jobs in accounting, or any variant of CPA jobs, accounting firms, etc. into Google’s search field and are also located in one of our geographic targets, brings the MontanaConnection website into the search results.  Once they click on our website, job seekers can review, apply for jobs and upload their resume.

How can you help?  By posting jobs on the MontanaConnection website, those visiting the site will see all the opportunities we have in Montana.  You will also have more candidates viewing your job posting helping you find qualified applicants that may not have heard about your job openings.

Brain drain is a huge problem in Montana, many students leave shortly after graduating to work in big cities.  For some, after spending time away, they want to come home and get back to the slower pace and enjoy their roots.  This campaign targets those exact individuals by using specific demographics and geofences for certain firms across the northwest.

Deer Lake Gallatin Canyon


What is geofencing? It’s an incredible way to target the exact people you’re wanting to reach.  The technical description is: the use of GPS or RFID technology to create a virtual geographic boundary, enabling software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area.   For this campaign, we are using geofencing when a person enters or leaves a campus or one of our targeted firms in Seattle, Portland or Colorado, the MontanaConnection ads show on social media and are displayed while the person is browsing online.  You’ve likely seen these types of ads on your own phone device.  For example, after leaving Lowes or Home Depot, you will see ads appear on your phone while browsing the web reminding you of items you may have looked at in store.

As we all know, Montana is full of great opportunities as well as recreational activities that many states can’t compete with!  We want to match the right people with the right Montana company to help them find the life they’re looking for and help you find the talent you need.

For more information on MontanaConnection, click here.


What a great time to be a Montana CPA

While I’m excited about our profession today, I think we all recognize that this is a time of, as David Bowie puts it, “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!” This summer, we welcomed Allen Lloyd and Molly Holahan to the MSCPA. We also thanked (though we can never really thank them enough) Jane Egan and Margaret Herriges for all that they’ve done for the MSCPA over the years. In my day job at the University of Montana, we’ve very reluctantly bid a “Happy Retirement!” to Dr. Teresa Beed, who decided that 41 years at the university was finally enough. (Doing the math in my head now . . . I’ll have to teach until I’m 72 if I want to be at the university as long as Teresa!)

In case you haven’t heard, the MSCPA offices have changed location, too. The new location is right by Big Dipper ice cream in Helena, so I’m now looking for more excuses to drop by. At the annual conference in June, we also welcomed a new set of officers and board members. Thank you to all that have been willing to serve! Those of you who have been on the board know what I mean when I say that I’ve never had so much fun working so hard.

Herbold Josh sitting 2014

Josh Herbold, MSCPA President

Everywhere I turn, it seems there are more changes, and they’re happening faster and faster. That accelerating pace of change is rapidly becoming the new normal. As CPAs, we’re probably all acutely aware of the power of compound interest. Interest grows exponentially; slowly at first, then rapidly in later years. Over the course of history, the Law of Accelerating Returns has applied to technology, too. And it appears that we’re about to enter the steep part of the exponential curve. For some really interesting background on where we’re at with technology today, I encourage everyone to take a look at https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/01/artificial-intelligence-revolution-1.html. Things that were considered “science fiction” only a few years ago could actually happen within some of our lifetimes (which might interfere with my plan to teach until I’m 72!).

Our profession is not immune to these changes. In fact, the accounting profession is on the forefront of technological change. Recent articles about the coming changes range from pessimistic, doomsday pieces (https://www.wired.com/2017/02/robots-will-soon-taxes-bye-bye-accounting-jobs/) to more optimistic discussions about the opportunities that change brings (https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2017/07/20/how-ai-is-reshaping-the-accounting-industry/#f918a4737f30 and http://www.businessinsider.com/artificial-intelligence-is-an-opportunity-for-accounting-2017-3).

What isn’t likely to change is the need for people to make decisions about the future. I’ve always tried to teach my students that accounting isn’t simply a matter of journal entries or debits and credits (though it’s good to know how to do those). It’s about measuring and recording what has happened in an organization so that decision-makers can figure out what to do next. Even though the benefits of artificial intelligence and other new technologies are impressive, I’ve yet to see anyone who can perfectly predict the future. There will always be uncertainty about “what to do next,” and CPAs can help decision-makers deal with that uncertainty.

In order to do that, though, we need to be ready for the changes that are coming. We need to be willing to learn new technologies and adapt to new business models and ideas. The stereotype of the CPA as an eye-shade wearing “bean counter” stuck in a basement office needs to die a long-overdue death. That may have been a good business model in the past; it won’t work in the future.

For better or worse, change is coming. Let’s make sure that it’s for the better!

Will the CPA of the future look like George Jetson?

by Allen Lloyd, Executive Director at the Montana Society of CPAs

We keep hearing about automation coming to revolutionize the accounting profession and which will in turn, make many accounting jobs disappear.   This made me think about an old friend, George Jetson.  While many episodes revolved around the troubles at Spacely Space Sprockets, George typically only worked an hour a day twice a week.  I don’t think any of us would complain about that schedule.  His main responsibility was to turn the Referential Universal Digital Indexer (R.U.D.I.) on and off.


When can we expect to live in this wonderful new world?  Unfortunately, not before tax season and probably not before many of us retire.  This doesn’t mean we won’t get to reap some of the benefits of automation.  The Big 4 firms have technology that can do most of the work a typical entry level person does today, this will filter down to all firms probably in the next 5 years.  Similar technology is being developed to automate much of the work accountants do in business and industry, government, and non-profit.

Initially automation is going to make our lives easier as our workloads shift from routine tasks to higher level work.  The bank reconciliation may be automated, but someone still needs to translate the financial statements to help make business decisions.  We will also have to monitor the automations to make sure they are working correctly.  The days of software not doing things the way it should are far from over.

At a recent accounting educators meeting professors from across Montana talked about the importance of learning the fundamentals of accounting.  These skills will be just as valuable in the future as they are today.  It will continue to be critical for CPAs to understanding how activity impacts financial statements.


One of the issues with automating entry level work is figuring out how we develop recent college graduates into experienced staff?  When computers can do all but the most complicated tax returns how will people learn to complete these returns?

Automation won’t do everything we will still need to manage people, hopefully better than Mr. Spacely.

Change is coming and MSCPA wants to work with you to help shape the future.  Leave a comment below or email me your thoughts about the future.  We are here to facilitate your conversation and help you adapt to working one hour a day twice a week… someday.stat1stat2

Meet Molly!

I’m Molly Holahan, the new Communications Director!

I was born and raised in East Helena, MT.  I left Montana for 2 years to attend UNLV and transferred back to Montana and graduated from the University of Montana (GO GRIZ) with a BS in Communication Studies!  I found this degree to have the best mixture of technology, business, marketing and interaction with people!

For the past seven years, I worked at Anderson ZurMuehlen/Employee Benefit Resources.  I worked in our corporate office and helped with trainings and technology.  More recently, I transitioned to our sister company and worked in EBR as a plan administrator in training.

Blog Photo

Molly, Bill, Teva & Chewie

A little background on my life outside of work.  I met my husband, Bill, on a blind date! He had recently moved here from New Jersey to be closer to family.  He works as a tax attorney for the State at the Retirement Administration.  This year is full of excitement as Bill and I are welcoming our first child in October!

My first introduction to the MSCPA was working on a video project with Margaret. She was so passionate and creative- it was such a great experience.  I met Jean while working on a webinar and often bugged her with CPE questions and she was always unbelievably helpful and resourceful.  I enjoyed working with the Society any chance I got!

I am so thankful for this opportunity and am thrilled to work with Allen, Jean, Carol, Heidi, our board of directors, AND our amazing members (including so many of my previous coworkers from Anderson ZurMuehlen)!

I am so excited to be part of the MSCPA and look forward to meeting you at upcoming events and trainings!

Please contact me if you have any questions or just to say hi!

A Student Perspective

by Michelle McDowell, MSU Bozeman | MSCPA Student Representative Board of Directors 2016/2017

McDowellMichelle2015I will always remember completing my application for the student representative board member of the Montana Society of CPAs (MSCPA). At 4 PM on the due date of the application I found myself alone in my usual study room the professors joking referred to as my office. I re-wrote my application essay four times and repeatedly read it aloud. Getting my thoughts on paper can be messy because my mind often moves faster than my fingers. This blog post may even elude to this timing difference. What was my reason for applying? I care. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to contribute. And, I wanted to stay in Montana following graduation. My time spent as the MSCPA’s student representative has been an amazing opportunity to support the links between the students and the MSCPA. I feel very privileged to have been given this time to be part of something bigger.

The first board meeting I attended was in Missoula. I intentionally wore a burgundy colored blouse in the event any comments came up regarding the university I attended. And indeed a few comments were made but all in good fun.

Student board members have very minimal requirements. At some point during this time I recall asking the board if I could attend all the board meetings during my time as the student representative. I did not exactly bring the room to silence but the response was along of the lines of “What?”, “Really?”, “That would be great!”. This meant a lot to me because I truly wanted to contribute what I could were appropriate.

The next semester was incredible for me and I was fortunate to have the support of both accounting faculty and students. In particular I had two pillars of knowledge and experience to guide me. First is the MSU-Bozeman Accounting Club Faculty Advisor, Steve Ault, and our recent and loved MSCPA Communications Director Margaret Herriges. My efforts would not have been as successful without these two individuals.

During my term, I did not cast my net as wide as I had hoped. For students and members who I met in person, I do hope to have left a positive lasting impression regarding the MSCPA. And I hope to have help put the MSCPA on the map for students. Unfortunately, I played a less active role during the first part of my time as a graduate student. However, I am staying in Montana following my graduation so I have plenty of years ahead of me to make up for it. It has been an honor to serve the MSCPA during my time as a student and I look forward to continuing my service as a professional.

Thank you,


I’m so glad we had this time together

By Margaret Herriges, CAE, IOM

When I was a kid, the Carol Burnett show was in its heyday and my family watched it together and we laughed until we cried. Oh, it’s a good memory! That’s where the title of carol-burnett-show-2013this blog comes from, the closing song at the end of Ms. Burnett’s variety show. Some of you will remember it; those who are younger than 40 will think the Carol Burnett Show is just a late-night infomercial for a video.

This song has been running through my head a lot lately because it’s time for me to say “so long.” After 17 fun, exciting, wonderful years with MSCPA, I have given my resignation. My last day in the office will be June 29th.

When I started with the Society in 2000, I didn’t appreciate the real value of a CPA. I didn’t know how vital you are to the business world and to people’s personal finances. I know your importance now and I am, and will continue to be, a strong advocate for CPAs, especially my friends in Montana.

I’ve been fortunate to work closely with so many of you and the friendships we’ve made are priceless.  The things we’ve accomplished through the years, the Board meetings, the Annual Conferences and the many volunteers whom I’ve had the privilege to work with, these are the memories I will be taking with me, along with too many laughs and smiles to count. I’d hate to lose touch so you can find me on Facebook and you can reach me at mc2@bresnan.net.

I’ve been lucky to grow through my job as your Communications Director. My job has morphed from one of hard copy communications to electronic newsletters and social media and so much more. I’ve earned my IOM (Institute of Organization Management) and CAE (Certified Association Executive) credentials along the way and my appetite for knowledge and more experience has grown with these accomplishments.

I’m grateful to Jane for the opportunities I was given along the way. She made it possible to have a job AND a family. I was 31 when I started at MSCPA, I had been married not quite four years and I didn’t have a child. I laugh when I look back and remember that the board had to write a maternity policy for me!  I was the first staff to ever have a baby while working at MSCPA. That baby is now 16 years old and moving on to his own adventures. This office has been his home as well.

I’m grateful to the rest of the staff I’ve worked with throughout the years: Jean, Carol and Heidi who are still here, but also to Kay Roos, Susan Lively and the interns we used to hire each legislative session.  It’s been a good gig.  Allen Lloyd, you are going to LOVE it here! I wish you all the best.

Thank you for your support through the years, your friendship. I have long maintained that CPAs are the best people to work for; I’m guessing I always will. So I want to leave you with the song I mentioned in the opening of this blog, because I am so very glad for the time we had together, https://youtu.be/PjQuZCTLAv4, please consider it my thank you gift to you.  We had a laugh (many) and yes, we even shared a song or two. But, it’s time to say so long.

God bless!


Goodbye from Jane Egan

Egan Jane color

Jane Egan MSCPA Executive Director

Quoting Winnie the Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

I am excited to be retired and have the time to explore new opportunities but also am sad to be leaving this organization that has been so good to me.

My career with the Society started when Jane Campbell recruited me to be the Society’s first communications person. I remember my first day. . .I didn’t know much about associations or CPAs. As I met you and worked with you, I quickly learned what remarkable people you are. You are smart, generous, giving and dedicated. You taught me how to be a better person and I thank you for letting me work with you all these years. I appreciate the special partnership we have with you, our members and I am forever grateful to you for all you do and have done for me, the Society and the profession. I’ll always remember the fun we have had and the things we achieved together. Please continue to share your time and expertise to advance the profession – you do make a difference!

The Legacy Foundation is near and dear to my heart and I am honored and awestruck by your contributions in my name.

I want to pay tribute to my team for their support and hard work and always putting you, our members, first in everything they do. They have a total of 51 years of service on your behalf:

  • Margaret Herriges – 17 years
  • Carol Lopuch – 13 years
  • Jean Reiden – 10 years this go around with a total of 18 years
  • And Heidi Weis – our newbee at almost three years

IMG_0262Please make an opportunity to get to know your new executive director, Allen Lloyd. The future for the Society looks bright with Allen at the helm.

Thank you!

Accounting in Extraordinary Times

hill-annette-2016by President Annette Hill

We had record representation at the AICPA Council meeting held in Washington D.C. May 21 – 23. Representing Montana with me were Gordy Thompson (elected Council representative),  George Olsen (Legislation and Governmental Affairs Committee), Josh Herbold (incoming President of the MSCPA), Ryan Screnar (AICPA Awards Committee Chair), Ron Yates (AICPA Board member), Allen Lloyd as our incoming Executive Director and Jane Egan, our Executive Director.

The theme was “Accounting in Extraordinary Times.” It truly was an agenda of new concepts and complexities. Topics like cyber security, data analytics, rapid business model transformation and an introduction to Gen Z challenged all of us to brainstorm ideas for the AICPA’s next strategic plan and to chart the future of our profession. I’ll leave the details to Gordy and Ron to roll out in future blogs and at our upcoming 104th Annual Conference in Billings.

HomeLogowDatesIt is exciting to meet with our peers across the nation and hear about the leading edge issues in our profession. It is always comforting to come home to our own beautiful Montana and welcoming State Society, our professional home.  Are you joining us at our 104th Annual Conference in Billings next week? We have many things in store for you – honoring members who have served our profession and communities, welcoming a new President and a couple of new board members, saying goodbye to some board members and to me, introducing you to our new Executive Director, and celebrating the amazing career of our unforgettable Jane Egan. Will you be there? Here’s your last call. Registration closes on Friday, June 16thGet on line and sign up. We can’t wait to see you there.

What to do on Memorial Day!

By Walt Kero, CPA, ABV, CFF | Kero & Byington & Associates | Missoula

The follow blog was an article written by Walt for JCCS back in 2011. He was kind enough to let us reprint this inspiring piece. We hope you enjoy!

I had an unforgettable experience this past Memorial Day. The process started a few years ago when I started to put together a bucket list. The call to action became a reality last fall when I was talking motorcycles with our tax instructor Lynn Nichols.

Walt 1
The conversation went like this. I asked Lynn if he had been to Rolling Thunder. He said yes and that he went in May. I immediately told him last October that if things worked out I would do my best to go. He said to come on out to Pennsylvania and we would go together to Washington DC.

Sure enough, we rode together from the Pittsburgh area through Pennsylvania and met up with Chris, Alecia and Damen from the Ohio Society of CPAs. Chris and Damen are the computer geeks for the Society and avid bikers. We had a nice ride through Maryland with one bike taking a dive at a rest area. Thankfully, it wasn’t mine!

We made it to Washington DC on Saturday afternoon and stayed in a Maryland suburb. Sunday morning we were at the North Parking lot at the Pentagon- four motorcycles and five riders ready for action at 8:00 am. Some action- we sat around until noon before a bike moved. However, you end up in a sea of thousands of motorcycles and bikers most are veterans. The four hour wait was turned into a positive by walking to the Pentagon Memorial and seeing the reflecting pools on each of 184 benches. There is one bench for each person who died in the 911 terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

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The motorcycles with their riders started leaving the lot at high noon. We were about 60% of the way through the lot and we started moving about an hour and half later. We went across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to Constitution Avenue past the White House and the Capitol Building to Independence Avenue and past the Washington Monument. We went past thousands of supporters who were yelling, cheering, thanking and giving high fives. You want to talk about a rush! It was so cool to be riding down the left side of the streets and high-fiving bystanders with my left hand and running the throttle with my right hand. I must have made contact with about 25 people in a row right before the turn onto Arlington Memorial Bridge.

The purpose of Rolling Thunder is to draw attention to POW’s and MIA’s from all wars and to say thank you and welcome home to veterans. The event offers the opportunity for all of us to proudly and loudly proclaim our gratitude for all of our freedoms and our love and honor for our veterans who have fought for us. Most of us from my vintage knew classmates who died in Vietnam. This event is the result of that war and is such a good thing for our country. I am very humbled and gratified to have been a part of it.

I have a call to action and that is to develop a bucket list and start checking those items off. Your life will be much better for doing so. Also, if you get a chance to be in Washington DC on Memorial Day participate in the Rolling Thunder events as they are remarkable.