Ethics Competition Tests Students’ Writing and Critical Thinking

Accounting students competed for scholarship awards at the annual Melvoin Ethics Paper Competition in May 2020, writing papers that addressed ethical issues that arise in the professional practice of accounting. Students chose their own topics, which this year ranged from the ethical crisis of insider trading to the utilization of estimates in tax accounting.

The event took place virtually via Zoom and was moderated by Diane Kuhlmann, assistant director of the Master of Science in Taxation program. A panel of accounting professionals, including Mara Devitt (MBA ’83, MS ’86), McMillan Doolittle senior partner; Kate Dahlberg (BUS ’06), PwC capital markets and accounting advisory director; and Mike Whalen (MST ’88), EY partner, evaluated the participants on the quality of their paper, presentation and Q&A discussion. “Students were able to practice three key skills in this competition: diving deep into a topic of research, synthesizing findings and presenting those findings in a compelling way,” says Devitt.

This year’s winning student was Kristina Barczak, an accounting honors senior and MIS double major. She beat out finalists Max Brumer, Johnny Longo and Mohammad Rahman.

“Participating in this competition gave me practical experience in engaging critically in research and effectively communicating my findings,” says Barczak. “The feedback from the panel of professionals was also invaluable.”

Developing ethical reasoning skills helps students advance their understanding of the accounting profession and the complex responsibilities of the practitioner, and each year the Melvoin Ethics Paper Competition helps students achieve this.

“Ethical behavior is the foundation of the accounting practice,” says Kuhlmann. “Behaving ethically today will increase the likelihood that we make ethical choices in the future, so it’s important to engage students in opportunities, like this competition, that encourage them to explore ethical challenges faced by our profession.”

By Bartlomiej Lichon

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