Promoting Student Membership as an Early Path to Professionalism

By: Ron O. Cardwell, JD, MAcct. CPA, CMA, CGMA

Accounting students in many college classrooms are oftentimes a blend of traditional and non-traditional students of all ages with a full plate of academic and extracurricular activities. For many years, I promoted the benefits of becoming student members of NCACPA as an excellent way for my students to easily weave themselves into the flow of professional information.

Although the NCACPA student membership rate has always been relatively low, I often heard students say that they were unable to join as student members because they lacked the registration funds, that they would submit an application later after a certain accounting course was completed, or when they had more time to complete the application process.

I am delighted that NCACPA has recently made membership free for the students. In addition, the new online application process makes the student membership application a breeze and it can be done right away (to avoid the “do-it-later” problem).

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Now, the membership rate is no longer a barrier for students, and opens the possibility of a vibrant flow of information to accounting students very early in their studies so that they begin to feel a part of an organization that will support them as they grow into accounting careers.

To promote NCACPA’s new policy of free student membership, I incorporated an assignment for my upper-level accounting students to sign up for membership, the first day of the course. To prompt the students, I included a small amount of points in their course grade calculation for the completion of this task along with a due date for the submission of an affirmation of their NCACPA student membership application. Because I use a Learning Management System (Moodle), I was able to post a URL with “Click Here for NCACPA Student Membership” to take the students directly to the NCACPA application website. I was also able to use Moodle to create an “assignment” with an “UPLOAD HERE” label so that the students could simply upload their reply email from NCACPA to Moodle to collect the incentive points for that assignment. This LMS-Moodle process of managing the task was very efficient for my students and for me.

During our first class meeting after the usual introductions this semester, I took a few minutes to talk with my students about the benefits of “plugging in” to their profession as soon as possible and showed them a few of the NCACPA webpages on our digital display board. At that point, I cheerfully invited my students to attend some of the upcoming NCACPA networking events with me.

In the past few years, a few of my accounting students took the leap of faith and joined the NCACPA when I mentioned it in class without having a specific assignment to do so. However, this semester with the new approach of creating an NCACPA “student membership assignment,” many of my accounting students have uploaded their affirmations of new membership and quietly tapped into the NCACPA membership ranks. My hope is that with their new memberships, my students will begin using NCACPA pipelined information to add NCACPA chapter activities (ball games, picnics, dinner topic presentations, Day of Service, networking, financial literacy, and career networking) into their regular routine as they continue along with their accounting courses.

I plan to continue to include this activity in all of my future upper-level accounting courses. My hope is that all of our accounting graduates will be “plugged in” with NCACPA well before they launch their careers in accounting.

ron_cardwell_headshotRon O. Cardwell, JD, MAcct, CPA, CMA, CGMA is an Assistant Professor of Accounting and Chair of the Accounting Department at Guilford College.  His undergraduate degree in accounting is from UNCG.  His master of accountancy degree is from Virginia Tech.  His law degree is from Wake Forest University.  He introduces his accounting students to the accounting profession by encouraging their participation as student members in NCACPA.