Monday, September 14, 2015

Discover Accounting Program Shattering Stereotypes for Tennessee High School Students

On Sept. 2, TSCPA launched the first of 10 Discover Accounting Programs to be held across the state this fall. The event was held at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn., and drew more than 40 students from area high schools to learn more about a career in accounting.

Dr. Michelle Freeman
Professor of Accountancy at East Tennessee State University
Michelle Freeman, professor of accountancy at ETSU, kicked off the day challenging the students’ preconceived stereotypes of accountants. Freeman taught the students about the different types of accountants and the many career paths available to those pursuing a degree in accounting and passing the CPA exam.

“Because accounting is the language of business, it’s one of the most adaptable business degrees you can obtain. With an accounting degree, you can really go into any type of business and understand exactly how that company works, judge how successful it is and project where it’s future will be based on different options,” Freeman said.

Kevin Peters, CPA
Partner at Blackburn, Childers, & Stegall, PLC
Accountants are also one of the most trusted professions out there. Kevin Peters, CPA, a partner with Blackburn, Childers & Stegall, PLC, shared stories of his experiences as an auditor.

“There have been times when I’ve been doing an audit and discovered someone in the company was stealing. They may be the nicest person in the world but with enough situational pressures and an open opportunity, many people falter,” Peters said. “As an accountant, people don’t think about us having people skills, but it’s one of the skills we use most often. We don’t just work with numbers, we’re working with people.”

Jonathan Bailey, MAcc, CGMA, CPA
Tax Manager at General Shale
Jonathan Bailey, MAcc, CGMA, CPA, Tax Manager with General Shale, and Jamie Ketron, CGMA, CPA, Auditor with Cherry Bekaert, teamed up to talk about the differences in their jobs, what helped them decide to go into accounting and why they love what they do. Travel and working at remote locations was a big part of what fuels their passion for accounting, but they also love working with people and providing help and insight into the often complicated government regulations.

Jamie Ketron, CGMA, CPA
Auditor at Cherry Bekaert
“It was also a very secure career choice that pays very well,” said Ketron. “When you graduate with an accounting degree, there is no lack of job opportunities. And if you get your CPA certification, the options are limitless.”

However, Chad Kisner, CISA, CITP, CPA, a partner with Blackburn, Childers & Steagall, PLC, cautioned students about what they post on social media. “Recruiters will look at your social media profiles,” he warned. “If it’s something you wouldn’t want your parents to see, don’t do it.”

Social media can help or hurt a student’s future career plans, and this is a critical lesson that high school students need to understand sooner rather than later.

Dr. Mark Steadman, ETSU professor of accounting, did a fantastic job of helping the students understand the perils of financial debt as a student and smart ways to avoid it.
Chad Kisner, CISA, CITP, CPA
Partner at Backburn, Childers & Steagall, PLC

The event wrapped up with Ben Daugherty, one of the college recruiters, and Alyssa Reed, an ETSU accounting student, helping the students to better understand how to prepare for college, how to choose the right school and ways to apply for scholarships.

Students attending said they learned more about accounting as a career option and more about going to and applying for college. One student said, “It gave great insight and showed that the stereotypes aren’t the case.”

With nine more events scheduled through Nov. 9, TSCPA is working to bring an interest in accounting to more than 1,000 high school students across Tennessee. Attendance is free for high school students and their teachers, but space is limited.

The upcoming dates and locations are as follows:
Lipscomb University, Nashville: Sept. 21
Carson-Newman University, Jefferson City: Oct. 2
Christian Brothers University, Memphis: Oct. 10
Lee University, Cleveland: Oct. 20
Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville: Oct. 23
King University, Bristol: Oct. 25
University of Tennessee at Martin: Nov. 7
Pellissippi State Community College, Knoxville: Nov.9

If you are interested in becoming involved or becoming a sponsor, please contact Aleshia Garrett at, 615/377-3825 or discover more at

These events were made possible by contributions from the following sponsors:



Carr Rigs & Ingram
Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC


Dent K. Burke Associates, P.C.
Frasier, Dean & Howard, PLLC
Pugh CPAs
Regions Bank
Roderfer Moss & Co., PLLC