Accounting students representing SFA's chapter of Beta Alpha Psi placed first in the recent Best Practices Service Learning competition held in San Antonio. Students on the presentation team included (from left) Ashley Stilley, William Hawkins, Miranda Etkind and Vicki Tippit.

Accounting students in Stephen F. Austin State University's chapter of Beta Alpha Psi recently won first place in the Best Practices Service Learning competition at the 2010 Beta Alpha Psi southwest regional meeting in San Antonio. Their presentation focused on work SFA accounting students accomplished with GODTEL Ministries, a Nacogdoches homeless shelter.

Making the award-winning presentation were Miranda Etkind, Vicki Tippit, Ashley Stilley and William Hawkins. The service learning project required students to help a small business or non-profit organization in their community improve its financial systems and operations. The students contacted GODTEL and learned that the organization's auditors had recommended converting their accounting systems to QuickBooks. While GODTEL had obtained QuickBooks software, the staff lacked information about how to install or use it.

"Imagine my delight when I received an email from a Beta Alpha Psi representative at SFA offering to train our office personnel in the use of Quickbooks," said GODTEL assistant director Nancy Gentry. "They were also willing to review our accounting procedures and make suggestions as to how we might improve our methods and internal controls.

"The Beta Alpha Psi students have been energetic, prompt and respectful, as well as being capable teachers," Gentry said.

In the following weeks, the Beta Alpha Psi chapter purchased and donated the Microsoft Office Suite and an online file back-up system and trained the GODTEL staff on their usage, as well. The students plan to continue working with GODTEL for the coming academic year to ensure their financial systems and operations function efficiently.

Accompanied by Dr. Treba Marsh, director of the Gerald W. Schlief School of Accountancy and chapter adviser, the winning service learning student team will advance to a competition held in conjunction with the national Beta Alpha Psi conference in San Jose, Calif., in August.

"Students who are part of the School of Accountancy are involved with hands-on learning as demonstrated by this project that provided assistance for a local not-for-profit organization," said Marsh. "These exemplary students went the extra mile to improve accounting practices in a local agency."

Service learning is one of three best practice areas of competition in which only the first-place winning school from each of the six regional competitions may compete. Placing third in the regional Beta Alpha Psi best practices competition focusing on ethics and integrity in business were SFA accounting students Jodi Henley and Eric Sparks. Beginning in the fall, Marsh will serve Beta Alpha Psi as faculty advocate for a five-state region that includes Texas. Kelly Noe, new assistant professor of accounting, will serve as faculty adviser for the local chapter for the coming year.