In February 1991, the firm established the BKD Accounting Education Fund, an endowed fund for the School of Accountancy (SOA).
Income from the fund is used for scholarships, software and hardware upgrades, faculty development and professorships.
Gary Schafer, managing partner for BKD’s offices in Springfield, Joplin and Branson, said the fund is supported by individual donations from BKD CPAs & Advisors, associates with MSU accounting degrees and matching funds from BKD, LLP.
“BKD, LLP has a matching gifts program where gifts by employees to the university from which we graduated are matched up to $500 per person per year. So, a portion of our annual donations to MSU come through that program. The majority of the gifts are individually funded,” he said.
Partners are strongly encouraged to donate and many other employees choose to participate each year.
Schafer has been with the firm since 1996 when he graduated from Missouri State.
He is one of 235 Bears who have worked for the firm.
BKD was founded in 1923 by three CPAs with $1,700 in the bank. When the BKD Accounting Education Fund was established there were about three offices. Today, BKD has a national presence and reputation with 40 offices in 18 states with approximately 2,900 CPAs, advisors and staff members. SOA graduates contributed to this rapid growth and that tradition continues today with many in local, regional and national leadership roles.
The fund established by BKD benefits students and faculty. Students like Shelby Whitaker.
Whitaker is a native of the small town of Cuba, Missouri. She became familiar with BKD her sophomore year during an Accounting Professionalism class.
“It’s one of the first classes accounting students at MSU take after getting admitted to their degree program and Dr. Julie Ravenscraft does a great job of bringing in a variety of outside speakers to show different career options for accountants. After that, I met with BKD at the COB Career Fair and interviewed for the student associate position and landed the job. After working at BKD for a bit in that position, I knew it was a company I wanted to work for after graduation,” Whitaker said.
As a graduate student, she received a scholarship from the fund which allowed her to focus on her schoolwork and study for the CPA exams without having to get a second job. It was the relief she needed.
Whitaker’s goal of working for BKD full time came true in July 2020. She is a CPA and associate at the firm.
“What I love about working for BKD is the people I work with. Everyone is positive and passionate about the work we do and the clients we serve, which makes work enjoyable,” she said.
Supporting the SOA makes sense from a business standpoint, said Schafer.
“We’re a professional services organization so we’re only as good as the team members that work for us. Because of that, it’s critically important that we continue to get a solid supply of really talented new professionals. It makes good business sense for BKD as an organization to really encourage our alumni to give back to the program,” he said.
The relationship builds on itself.
BKD offers internship opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate accounting students. It often hires these and other SOA graduates who then establish a tradition of giving back to their alma mater.
Many BKD professionals also serve on various advisory boards in the College of Business.
“We really appreciate that opportunity because obviously we’re a big consumer of the output of the School of Accountancy,” Schafer said. “We hire a lot of the graduates. So being able to provide feedback on what’s relevant for the students in curriculum and programs is really important to us.”
One of the strengths of the SOA is it helps students gain a wide variety of skills and exposes them to the real world. Schafer experienced that first-hand as a student.
He came to the university in 1990s, during a recession and his ultimate goal was to be highly employable after graduation. A young Schafer was undecided between accounting and science. Here, he discovered public accounting.
“Once I got into the College of Business and started taking classes, that’s where the opportunities Missouri State made available for me were very helpful. Early on, I got an opportunity through the Accounting Club and other associations to interact with professionals,” Schafer said. “Through those connections, I came to understand that if I developed a high level of professional skills, I could have the opportunity to help people and their businesses. I really liked that idea.”
Building on success
The fund also supports professorships which are critical to a college.
Dr. Kimberly Swanson Church, director of the School of Accountancy, holds the BKD Leadership Professor distinction.
“The professorship pays part of my salary, which provides me time to serve the accounting profession at a national level,” Church said. “My current service engagement is co-chairperson for the AICPA Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR) Taskforce as part of the CPA Evolution. The new BAR discipline specialization is for candidates that want to demonstrate deeper skills and knowledge in financial accounting and data analytics as part of their CPA license. My committee is developing the data analytics content that will inform the next CPA exam, as well as creating the data analytics curriculum that will ensure students have the requisite skills for the competency-based exam. This opportunity afforded me by the BKD professorship brings international recognition to the School of Accountancy and Missouri State.”
The SOA also benefited from BKD working with the software publisher Wolters Kluwer to help MSU attain an educational license for TeamMate Analytics, which provides accounting students invaluable practical experience in the use of data analytics in auditing.
“TeamMate allows School of Accountancy faculty to create real-world simulations using data sets resembling the size and complexity students will encounter in their internships and in their careers,” said Dr. Gregory Tapis, assistant professor in the SOA.
This software is a “critical tool” used in the accounting world and the firm felt it was important to give students a chance to work with it before they hit the workforce, said Schafer.
This symbiotic relationship has benefited countless students over the years and also provided the firm with a reliable workforce.
“Our relationship with Missouri State is a little bit unique in terms of our level of giving and support to the School of Accountancy,” said Schafer. “Some of that is because the School of Accountancy has been very responsive at developing graduates and professionals that are ready to enter the workforce with a work ethic that enables them to potentially be successful in public accounting. We’ve really grown tremendously with Missouri State and with the program. I would just like to encourage other organizations out there to try to find the win-win in supporting the university as well.”