You can’t always find members of University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Beta Alpha Psi in the “usual” college hangout spots. Searching for one on a Friday night? Try the Fairlane Center; they’ll be dressed in professional attire, ready to network. Saturday morning? Head over to Detroit, you might find them volunteering in an area soup kitchen.
For their commitment to professional development, academics and service, the UM-Dearborn Kappa Sigma chapter earned the distinction of “Superior Chapter” from the Beta Alpha Psi Board of Directors. Beta Alpha Psi is an international honors society for financial information students and professionals.
“Recognition as Superior Chapter is a significant accomplishment,” said Blane Ruschak, president of Beta Alpha Psi, in a letter to the university. “Under the leadership of Susan Baker, the Kappa Sigma Chapter has far exceeded the baseline requirements of Beta Alpha Psi and has excelled in the areas of academics, professionalism and leadership.”
For Baker, LEO lecturer IV and chapter faculty adviser, and members of Beta Alpha Psi, the mission is two-fold: provide opportunities for professional development and give back to the community through service.
Every other Friday, the chapter welcomes guest speakers from area accounting firms, banks and other financial institutions. Guests offer insight into the field and then network with the students afterward.
“Beta Alpha Psi helps students learn the soft skills and bridges the gap between being a student and becoming a professional,” Baker said.
The chapter also hosts annual Meet the Firms events, inviting students to meet with potential employers.
Monica Bailey, the chapter’s vice president, finds these events especially helpful when planning for internships and careers. In fact, she first met representatives from the accounting firm in which she’ll conduct her internship at a Meet the Firms event.
“Networking, networking, networking,” Bailey said, in reply to the appeal of Beta Alpha Psi. “It’s the chance to ask questions of professionals, to really understand the field. We have the opportunity to make connections and get involved.”
“Get involved” is, perhaps, an understatement. In the past year, Beta Alpha Psi members have volunteered hundreds of hours in service to the community.
Last winter, members volunteered with the Accounting Aid Society’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, preparing free tax returns for low-income families in the Detroit area.
The chapter logged more than 360 hours and prepared 474 tax returns. The result? Approximately $361,000 in tax refunds.
“It was great practice for our students,” Baker said. “But also so much more. They were impacted by their clients and the stories they shared. When you hear that people are waiting outside in the snow for free services, suddenly you aren’t as concerned when you can’t afford the latest tech gadget.”
This semester, students have planted trees in Detroit, volunteered in the soup kitchen at Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) and led an all-day financial literacy program at the Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy. They also have raised enough money to purchase clothes and toys for 25 children in this year’s Adopt-a-Child holiday drive.
“Service is so important, no matter what field you enter,” Bailey said. “It’s important to give back to the community you’re in.”
Baker agrees. “So many corporations focus on giving back to the community,” she said. “For our students, this is not going to be new; this is the way they are conducting their lives.”