Running Start Elms is moving full-speed ahead with real-world programming and a new M.B.A.
By Jaclyn C. Stevenson
Accounting professor Kerry Calnan believes that practical experience blended with academic theory is the best way to learn, and there’s not doubt that she walks the walk. In fact, upon rushing across the Elms campus one day, a colleague who’d been in academia longer than she told her she stood out. “He said, this is a college—you can walk slowly,” Calnan remembered. “Sometimes, you can even mosey!” Calnan’s career began in corporate America, and as it seemed, her brisk pace was hard to shake. She worked with the multi-billion dollar company ABB (Asea Brown Boveri; now Alstom Power), managing a $150 million segment of business. Later, she worked with a start-up offering management resources before turning her attention to teaching. It’s this diverse set
of experiences that Calnan says colored her first view of the accounting division at the Elms.
at no charge in conjunction with the Valley Opportunity Council.
“I had the opportunity to view things differently—I’m not an academic,” she said. “Today’s business students require networking skills and practical experience, and I know that there are a lot of ways to get there. In a way, that made it easier to build the bridge between the students’ needs and those of hiring companies.”
Gradually, the local business community started to take a second took at the activity coming out of the Elms campus, and realized that students were also making academic strides of their own.
Off to the Races So, with a spring in her step, Calnan began to incorporate her real-world approach into accounting programs at the Elms. Students began working with area companies to test their skills, and in the community to put those skills to work. Many, for instance, complete taxes for low- to middle-income residents
A team of accounting students recently competed in the first annual American Institute of Certified Public Accountant (AICPA) Accounting Competition, advancing to the semi-finals alongside nine other institutions from across the country. Accolades like this are important—“they build confidence and demonstrate the skill level of our students,” Calnan said—but moreover, the issues students are charged with solving are valid and timely. Teams were charged with creating proposals for the Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, N.C., Elms College Magazine Spring | 2011