In December of 1969, nine African-American men met in New York City to discuss the challenges they faced in the profession of accounting. Out of 100,000 certified public accountants in the United States that year, only 136 of them were African-American, according to NABA’s site.
Following this meeting, the National Association of Black Accountants was created to further people of color and their opportunities in the accounting, business and finance-related professions.
Plattsburgh State’s NABA chapter was founded in 2014 to mentor other students and teach them business etiquette and the proper skills needed to succeed in their professional career.
The organization just held its Annual Appreciation Banquet, a masquerade-themed fashion show created in collaboration with campus club Women in Leadership.
PSUC NABA President Jennifer Kouffer, a senior accounting major, explained that this year, there was a large number of students inquiring about proper dress code for interviews. Different outfits were showcased to represent looks suitable, appropriate and stylish for a variety of professional and casual occasions from work to happy hour.
“We know the transition from student to professional isn’t easy,” Kouffer said. “We wanted to show people this with a sense of flavor.”
PSUC junior and NABA Vice President Raheem Garcia added that many members of NABA are firstgeneration college students, so the club provides these students with a place to obtain answers to questions many of them share.
“Where I grew up there weren’t a lot of examples on what to wear,” Garcia said. “I only knew I had to wear a suit to church.”
Garcia appreciates NABA for teaching him what professionalism means and helping him gain the skills he needs to succeed in his career.
“Before, I would go to interviews and not understand why I wasn’t getting the jobs, and it’s because I didn’t know I was unprofessional,” Garcia said.
Sophomore Cheyenne Richards said it is very empowering to learn these skills from people who shareher identity as an African American woman.
Richards recalled visiting a NABA panel for the first time her first freshman year, the year she joined NABA. Panel memebers discussed black women in the workplace, what it means for African-American women to look professional and how to wear their hair and weaves.
Most importantly for Richards, these were personal topics to her that weren’t spoken about at other clubs.
“It was something I didn’t know how to handle before,” she said.
The club is open to students of all majors and racial and ethnic backgrounds for free, but for $35 a year, students gain membership status and acquire a lot more opportunities .
One of these is the ability to attend the Eastern Regional Student Conference, an annual meeting of professional and student NABA chapters to recognize each chapter’s commitment as well as provide a forum for interested and incoming members. Students are able to network with finance professionals, set up interviews and learn about scholarships.
“Networking is key, and that’s what I really want everyone to know,” Kouferr said. “No matter what organization you join or the people you meet, networking will take you far.”
Kouffer will intern this summer for a second time at KPMG, one of the four largest accounting firms in the world.
Twenty-one students from PSUC’s chapter attended the ERSC conference this year and engaged in workshops that provided advice on how to maintain their chapter status, as well as participate in mock interview sessions.
“It’s class outside of class,” Kouferr said. “You can relax and still learn and experience self-growth, which is the key to success.”
Kouffer, Richards and Garcia all see each other as members of an unforeseen family and all identify deeply with NABA’s national motto, “Lifting as We Climb.”
“Even when you’re falling, they’re there for you,” Garcia said. “Even when you’re doing something wrong, they’re not afraid to tell you because they don’t want to see you fall.”
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