Chair's Letter January 2010 

by Robert R. Harris, CPA/CFF, Chairman, AICPA Board of Directors   
Published January 02, 2010

When I became chairman, I pledged to embrace change. But change can happen to us, or we can make it happen. I prefer to make it happen. One change I am pushing for is to welcome the fresh ideas and leadership of new generations of CPAs. If we are to maintain our high standards for excellence, we will have to continue to attract the highest quality students to study accounting and ultimately become CPAs. Once they join the profession, we should encourage them to take on roles as leaders who will uphold our reputation and use their own talents and experiences to expand our opportunities.

As far as bringing new people into the profession, I’m happy to tell you that we continue to achieve great success. In the 2007-2008 academic year, 66,000 young people graduated with accounting degrees, the most in our history. We clearly are doing a good job of promoting the many benefits of becoming an accountant and attracting students to accounting programs. We also have been successful at encouraging accounting graduates to sit for the CPA exam and become CPAs.  In fact, in July 2009 the computer-based version of exam, launched in April 2004, surpassed the milestone of one million exam sections.

The next step is to encourage these new CPAs to become active and involved in the profession. It’s important for younger CPAs to have a voice in the process, because the decisions being made now will affect their futures. I joined my first AICPA committee when I was 33, and I believe it is vital to our profession that we include young people under 36 on committees. It significantly helped my career as well.

With that in mind, I’d like to remind members that the AICPA is accepting applications for the 2010-2011 committee year now through May 1. The appointment process begins in July and the committee year begins in October. The spots open include committees, expert panels, task forces and more. On volunteer central, our Web site for applying, you can see how many vacancies and how many people have applied for a volunteer group. In serving, young people have an excellent opportunity to learn the ropes and understand how the work of the profession is performed, as well as gain important visibility among colleagues and prospects.

Those who aren’t selected for committees have other opportunities to participate in leading the profession. For example, young people working with small businesses might get involved in the Private Company Financial Reporting Committee Resource Group or User Group. I would also encourage young people to comment on exposure drafts that will affect their companies or clients, write articles for various AICPA publications or become active in state CPA societies or local society chapters.

The AICPA Leadership Academy is another great opportunity for young people. Last year, an inaugural group of 28 young CPAs came together in Chicago to receive training and mentoring from some of the profession’s brightest minds. I plan to continue the good work of this academy, which was the brainchild of Ernie Almonte, my predecessor as board chairman. In 2010, the Academy will be held October 5-7.  You will be able to apply starting later this month through May (visit for more information). Many state societies have started their own leadership academies, which will help us to reach an even wider group of promising young professionals.

There are many chances to make a difference and to begin to take part in our profession. I urge young CPAs to take that first step toward getting involved.


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