Press Release



Jonathan Cox

Students from the University of Texas at Dallas Win National Accounting Case Competition 

Four-person team earns $10,000 award for demonstrating excellence in sustainability accounting 
Published January 21, 2011

NEW YORK  (Jan. 21, 2011)The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants today named students from the University of Texas at Dallas winners of a national case competition focused on enhancing sustainability practices at a luxury hotel, awarding $10,000 to the four-member team.

Students from the University of Tennessee took second place and received a $5,000 award. The third-place team from Ohio Dominican University won $2,500.

The AICPA, in partnership with the Institute for Sustainable Development in Chapel Hill, N.C., opened the competition in September to give students pursuing associate’s or bachelor’s degrees an opportunity to apply their accounting and sustainability know-how to a real-world business challenge for an actual client. That client was The Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary, N.C., a AAA Five-Diamond-rated property that has been certified Green Plus by the Institute of Sustainable Development. Teams had to develop ideas that would improve the environmental footprint of the hotel, remain consistent with its brand and make financial sense.

“CPAs today are strategists, guiding business decisions on issues like environmental sustainability that are becoming new metrics of corporate success,” said AICPA Chairman Paul V. Stahlin, who announced the winners in New York this morning. “This competition has highlighted the exceptional level of up-and-coming talent in our profession and given participants invaluable real-world experience. Congratulations to the students from the University of Texas and all the teams for their outstanding ideas and analysis.”

Sixty-four student teams from around the country entered submissions and 10 were chosen to participate. Their written and video proposals were placed on ThisWaytoCPA.com, a website for college students and CPA exam candidates to investigate accounting careers, so the public could vote on the best ideas. Those results and a review by an executive judging panel narrowed the field to the three team finalists, which each gave an 8-minute presentation to the AICPA Board of Directors in New York on Thursday.

Winning team members from the University of Texas at Dallas accepting the $10,000 award from AICPA Chairman Paul Stahlan and CEOThe University of Texas team had two primary ideas to improve environmental sustainability at The Umstead: Switch to LED lighting and install a rooftop garden. The students explained the environmental and financial benefits of each. LED bulbs, by the team’s calculations, would reduce The Umstead’s carbon emissions by 2 million pounds per year, pay for themselves in two years and save the hotel $30 a year in energy costs per bulb. A rooftop garden, the students said, would cut water runoff, provide extra insulation and produce vegetables for the hotel restaurant. They calculated the garden would make the roof last twice as long, reduce hotel energy costs by 30 percent and save $5,000 in annual food costs.

“Accountants today must be dynamic, balancing the values and philosophies of an organization with sound financial guidance,” said Ben Campsey, director of finance at The Umstead. “We saw this as an opportunity to be involved in an exercise that would challenge students to think critically on relevant business topics, while continuing to promote our belief in responsible luxury.”

The Umstead plans to incorporate the results of the competition into its capital budgeting process.

Members of the University of Texas team are:

  • Dariel Dato-on (captain)
  • Jinson Jose
  • Diane Henry
  • Jennifer Rauschuber
  • Faculty advisor: John P. Barden, CPA
For more information about the competition or to watch the video submissions, visit www.thiswaytocpa.com and click “Accounting Competition.”
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