Retiring? Stay involved with the profession as an executive-in-residence

Seasoned executive experts can give back to the profession by serving as a resource for students and faculty on college campuses.
By Jerry Maginnis, CPA, and Stephanie M. Weidman, Ph.D.

Retiring?
Image by Stuart Kinlough/IKON Images

As demographic trends suggest, a significant number of CPAs have retired recently or will be doing so in the near future. Many of these practitioners will be looking for ways to give back to their communities—or to their profession—during retirement. One way to do so is by becoming an executive-in-residence (EIR) for an accounting program at a college or university. An EIR role can be an excellent avenue for sharing practical experience with students, helping to prepare the next generation of accounting professionals.

The term executive-in-residence has been used in industry to describe executive experts who lend their specialized knowledge and experience to organizations on a temporary or part-time basis. The academic world has also adopted the EIR model, and the practice has become increasingly widespread among top business programs in the United States and abroad.

EIRs can perform various roles within an accounting department. They may serve as guest lecturers, work with career placement offices to mentor students through the job placement process, organize special interest presentations and panel discussions, consult with faculty on curriculum development and skill building, and help with fundraising.

The extent of their involvement can vary from just a few hours a week to being on campus virtually every day. (For those who wish to experiment a bit and "walk before they run," many universities offer multiple volunteer opportunities that constitute less of a commitment than a full EIR role. See "Inspiring the Next Generation: How CPAs Can Contribute on Campus," for more details.)

Virtually all EIRs are retired or semiretired, and most accept the role on a noncompensated basis. When a teaching assignment is involved, the EIR will normally be compensated as an adjunct or a part-time instructor. In all cases, the presence of seasoned and successful executives on campus provides students with role models and lessons learned from practical experience.

EIRs can benefit accounting programs in many ways. As they typically are retirees, they often have more time and flexibility to devote to extracurricular activities than faculty do. They have built up broad networks of business connections, which they can use for the benefit of accounting programs by bringing business leaders into the classrooms and recruiters to career fairs, helping departments to establish recruiting relationships with firms not previously on campus. EIRs' years of practice experience also gives them credibility with students when they discuss topics such as ethics in the profession, the importance of CPA licensure, and how to begin a successful accounting career.

ONE UNIVERSITY'S EXPERIENCE

Rowan University, a public university in New Jersey with an enrollment of 16,000 undergraduates, recently began an EIR program with Jerry Maginnis, CPA, co-author of this article, serving as EIR. Maginnis came to the role with 36 years of experience in public accounting, having retired from KPMG, where he was the office managing partner of the firm's Philadelphia office.

In his role as EIR, Maginnis has arranged for a number of high-profile guest speakers to visit campus and has also helped broaden relationships with prospective employers of students. He is helping launch a Beta Alpha Psi chapter and to pilot a program on campus that is designed to raise awareness of the benefits of becoming a CPA. He has been welcomed into classrooms for guest lectures by faculty and is working closely with the Accounting Advisory Board. He has also become a resource to students, who often seek him out for career advice.

HOW TO GET STARTED

It has been estimated that nearly half of U.S. college business programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business use some form of EIR program (see "Executives-in-Residence at the Business School: Expectations and Realities," by Julie Toner Schrader and Lee B. Thomas Jr., Marketing Management Association Proceedings, Spring 2004, available at mmaglobal.org. However, EIRs typically assist with MBA and other graduate business programs and are less frequently affiliated with accounting programs. To date, only a handful of accounting programs have EIR programs. To inquire about such opportunities, contact the chair of your alma mater or local school of accounting.

If the school nearest you does not have an EIR program, you may want to suggest creating one, as Maginnis did by contacting Stephanie Weidman, chair of the Accounting and Finance Department at Rowan and co-author of this article. Maginnis and Weidman met several times with the dean and assistant dean of the College of Business to plan the EIR arrangement, put details of the planned relationship in writing (similar to an engagement letter), and signed off on it. All parties have agreed to review and renew the agreement at least annually to ensure that the arrangement is working.

EIR PROGRAMS BENEFIT STUDENTS, CPAs, AND THE PROFESSION

The authors believe that both schools of accountancy and retiring CPAs could benefit by implementing EIR programs. From the EIR's perspective, affiliation with a university can be very rewarding and practically advantageous. Depending on the terms of the agreement, it may provide the EIR with professional workspace for activities related to the university and, potentially, for work unrelated to the EIR role. It may also afford the EIR with administrative and technology support, and access to university amenities. Most importantly, it provides an opportunity for the EIR to use his or her knowledge and to share life experiences for the benefit of the next generation of accounting professionals.

With growing enrollments and a shortage of doctorally qualified faculty in accounting, the help that an EIR can bring to an accounting program is substantial. It can be enriched by an EIR's engagement with students, leadership with advisory boards, and business outreach. EIRs can bring practical knowledge to the classroom and help identify opportunities for enhancing students' career-readiness skills. The mutual benefit of an accounting EIR program makes it a venture well worth pursuing from all vantage points.


About the authors

Jerry Maginnis (maginnis@rowan.edu) is the Accounting Executive-in-Residence at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J. Stephanie Weidman (weidman@rowan.edu) is the chair of the Rohrer College of Business Accounting and Finance Department at Rowan University.

To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien, senior editor, at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com or 919-402-4125.


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