Client Spotlight: Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy, Mississippi State University

June 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Quest’s clients do some impressive things. Now and then we highlight them here in Q4U so you can get to know them. This time, we’re focusing on the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy at Mississippi State University.

Part of the MSU College of Business, the accounting program was chartered as a school in 1979. In 2007, it was named for alumnus Richard Adkerson, the president, CEO and vice chairman of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc. At that time, Adkerson established a multi-million dollar endowment to support school operations and faculty, and he continues to contribute his time and financial support today. The support of Adkerson along with numerous other major supporters allow the School to grow, prosper and provide a quality educational experience for the MSU accounting student

The Adkerson School of Accountancy has an annual enrollment of about 420 undergraduates and 45 graduate students. It offers Bachelor of Accountancy, Master of Public Accountancy and Master of Taxation degrees.

gradssmall“Our aim is for our graduates to be highly productive and effective from the moment they begin their careers,” says interim director Dr. Frances McNair. “The foundation is excellent teaching and support of the students. In addition, we seek every opportunity to give students professional working experience, connections to others in the field and a sense of commitment to profession and community. And, if we can help them leave here with a job and little debt, they’ll have a strong start.”

The cost of a college education can be a burden, so school administrators pursue external funds to help ease the burden and allow students to focus on their studies. For the next academic year, more than $75,000 in scholarships and more than $190,000 in graduate assistantships have been awarded.

A faculty of 14 accounting professors is involved in the educational experience of the student at Mississippi State University. An emphasis is placed on the core concepts and principles of financial and managerial accounting and taxation. The faculty are also involved with students as advisors, research directors and organization sponsors. They command respect beyond MSU as well, boasting many awards and publishing accolades.

The School benefits from an Advisory Council of accounting professionals, many of whom are alumni, who act as a sounding board for faculty regarding current issues of the profession and the practical application of classroom teaching.

Education isn’t limited to the classroom. Through an active Beta Alpha Psi chapter, students hear from leading professionals, make connections with peers at national and regional meetings and contribute their skills to help those in need. Currently in the planning stages are two new student organizations that will foster leadership by women and minorities in accounting.

Practical experience is perhaps the strongest advantage for a graduate seeking or starting a new position. The School, along with the university’s Career Center, facilitates internships for upperclassmen with Big 4, national and regional firms and with corporations like FedEx or Georgia-Pacific. The companies often invite their MSU interns to return in permanent positions following graduation. Students also meet potential employers through school-sponsored career fairs and other recruiting events.

Always looking ahead, the school has begun planning a new summer camp for 2015. It will offer high school juniors creative and interesting ways to explore accounting as a career option. Reaching out to these young students will help them to become aware of career possibilities, and it will help the Adkerson School of Accountancy educate the best and brightest for the future.

Keep up with the students, alumni and faculty of the Adkerson School of Accountancy at www.bulldogledger.com.

Heartbleed: Protect Yourself

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

heartbleedWhen a computer bug gets its own logo, pay attention.

Because of its scope and untraceability, the Heartbleed bug is one of the most significant security vulnerabilities since the Internet has existed.  As many as two-thirds of all active sites, including some of the largest like Facebook, use the software in question to keep information secure.  And there’s no way to detect where attackers might have exploited Heartbleed to steal data, eavesdrop on conversations, or impersonate services or users.

Affected sites

Everyone needs to change passwords on affected sites, but only after those sites have fixed the problem.  There are several ways to check the sites you use.  Mashable, for instance, is maintaining a list of the status of major sites and services.

You can check individual sites on password manager LastPass.  (If you’re already a LastPass user, you’ve got a built-in Heartbleed checker for your accounts – but for new members it may perceive all your passwords as new and therefore safe.)

Tools are also emerging like Google Chrome’s free Chromebleed extension that checks the URL of the page you have just loaded and displays a notification if it is affected by Heartbleed.

Passwords on “safe” sites

If the password you’ve used on a vulnerable site is the same one you’ve used on some unaffected sites, change those, too.  And in the future, don’t use the same password in multiple places.

The best passwords are a random mix of letters, numbers and symbols.  And they’re changed regularly.

A password manager can simplify life by helping you create and remember your new long list of indecipherable passwords.  A few that get good marks from Macworld or PC World are LastPass, 1Password and Dashlane.

Setting up a password manager may take some time initially, but afterward will save time, effort…and heartache.

The New Cool Factor in an Old Medium

March 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Every new development in communications has brought dire predictions of the demise of print.  Certainly the emergence of digital devices and social media has opened a new array of marketing possibilities, but there will always be times when nothing will do other than a printed item that you can place in someone’s hands.  And printers are giving us innovative and exciting ways of making those pieces distinctive.

“The best way get your printed piece noticed is to make it different from your competitors,’” points out Mike Leathers, executive vice president at Commercial Printing of Birmingham, AL.  “As customers are printing smaller quantities of their marketing material, they are becoming more open to ideas that make their pieces nicer and set them apart.  There are more types of coating and finishes now than ever before. These things will add a cost to the piece, but since runs are smaller it doesn’t break the budget.”

Some of the options range from pearlescence and flat paper with three-dimensional effects to OLEDs (organic light emission diodes).  OLEDs are thin plastics used in digital displays such as televisions that are being developing to the point they can be used in printed pieces, though they are expensive.

Audiences these days expect and respond to individualized messaging.  Variable data printing has enabled printers to provide personalized direct mail.  The most common use is to change the address and salutation on each piece, but customization can also involve changing text and images according to target market, or even according to the individual.

Quest always recommends that our clients use a mixed media approach to reach a broad audience and to reinforce messaging through repetition in multiple modes.  Printers are embracing that, developing tie-ins to the emerging digital market.

QR codes on printed materials are one of the most widespread ways to enhance potential customers’ engagement, allowing them to access additional product information, videos or discounts on their mobile devices.  Print can also lead a target customer to a personalized URL generated specifically for that individual, where a company can present information relevant to the individual and measure how he or she interacts with it.

Wade Kellett, vice president/sales & marketing at Weatherall Printing in Tupelo, MS, notes that augmented reality, developed by Layar, is a fast-growing trend in the integration of print with technology.  A smartphone or tablet is used to scan a printed page, and the device superimposes graphics, audio or other sensory enhancements to augment what is on the page.  It has been used for product packaging, manuals, educational books and games.

3D is another developing area of print.  Companies like 3D Print Dimensions of Auburn, AL, take a digital model and “print” a three-dimensional solid object layer by layer.  Currently, 3D is most commonly used to produce parts, devices and prototypes for a variety of industries.  But as the technology continues to advance and costs drop, marketing applications are undoubtedly around the corner.

Printers are keeping ahead of the curve with new capabilities and an eye to future technologies.  This is good news for anyone with a product or service to promote – it means the print medium will continue to be fresh, modern and creative for many years to come.

Starting with a good marketing plan and graphic design from an ad agency and adding the new accoutrements found in the print industry can set companies apart from their competitors in fascinating new ways.

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