A Pipeline to Belonging: DEI Highlights from the Jenkins MAC
By Eliana Chow
As NC State’s Poole College of Management rolls out new initiatives to emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) across campus, the Jenkins MAC program has advanced its own DEI efforts to apply these values in an accounting context. Through a wide range of events and curriculum updates, MAC faculty and staff are introducing students to the challenges and successes of DEI in accounting.
Recently, the MAC program hosted a DEI speaker panel for its students in conjunction with the “Managerial and Career Effectiveness” course. Several MAC alumni shared about the challenges they face in the workplace, like struggling to retain employees from underrepresented groups, as well as how their firms are actively working to foster more inclusive environments for employees and clients. “The panel was designed to help equip students with the knowledge they will need to navigate those realities and learn how they can chart paths of belonging in their own companies,” explains Scott Showalter, director of the MAC program.
For Nick Rios, MAC ’22, the panel discussion provided space for further reflection as he prepares to join EY as an associate next summer. From his perspective, one of the key takeaways from the event was that diverse representation alone isn’t enough. “We have to establish workplace cultures where people feel free to voice their unique perspectives and contribute meaningful work,” Rios says. “It was encouraging to hear that many firms, including EY, already have DEI mentoring programs and advocacy groups in place that my peers and I can step into and help grow.”
Thanks to the work of Jessica Moran, assistant director of MAC academic programming, students frequently receive a newsletter-style collection of articles, each focused on a specific DEI theme, that highlight a wide variety of events and individuals in the accounting profession. The newsletter follows Poole’s DEI calendar of events to celebrate diversity across campus, a continuity that fosters connection between MAC students and the broader Poole community.
For example, during Pride Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, the newsletter featured articles about accounting professionals who identify as LGBTQ+ or Latinx. “We want to help educate students on the impact these individuals have in the industry,” says Moran. “If students see themselves represented in the accounting profession, they will have a better idea of how to participate in moving those DEI initiatives forward.”
Representation in the Classroom
In addition to connecting students with these outside resources, the MAC program is also on a mission to improve representation of DEI within its course materials. All MAC faculty are actively working to incorporate more DEI into their teaching methods and course materials. There are no set requirements, since each course presents a unique context with different objectives or class structures. Some simple changes faculty can make include using non-English names in problem sets or drawing case study examples from professionals with a wide range of socioeconomic, ethnic and gender backgrounds. “Whether you are a student or a working professional, we all need role models who come from a similar context as our own to inspire us and help us see what’s possible,” says Glenda Bowman, MAC ’12, a senior tax manager at EY who sat on the DEI speaker panel.
Bowman directly experienced Poole’s welcoming environment when she first became a student at NC State during her undergraduate years. She had immigrated to the U.S. from Puerto Rico as a teenager and had long sought a place where she felt like she belonged. While it was a challenge to simultaneously learn English and perform well in a rigorous MAC curriculum, NC State was the first place she lived in the U.S. that felt like home, Bowman says. “My professors always believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. They cultivated space for me to thrive, and that has influenced how I work to create those same types of spaces for myself and my colleagues at EY.”
Fueling the Future
Beyond equipping current students to thrive in their upcoming careers, the MAC community at Poole also looks forward to paving the way for future generations of leaders.
The MAC community only continues to grow in its representation of individuals from historically underrepresented minorities, due to the program’s concentrated efforts to recruit a diversity of students, as well as changing demographics in the general population. In light of the increasingly diverse student body, Showalter says that it is crucial for MAC faculty and staff to foster an environment that welcomes these students and empowers them to succeed. “DEI is not a temporary trend,” says Bowman, who helps EY recruit interns and new associates from Poole. “The accounting world is becoming more intentional and vocal about bringing DEI to the forefront of business and client priorities. I see Poole responding to this through their desire to holistically prepare students to lead in the industry.”
As the MAC program plans to expand its course offerings and events to more actively incorporate DEI values, Moran acknowledges that change is rarely perfect. “We are going to make mistakes and fall short of our goals sometimes,” she says. “But as a community, we are committed to helping each other walk in the right direction and remain attentive to each other’s perspectives. We are not doing this alone.”