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Synergy Program Aims to Help Diversify Accounting

Twenty-five high school students came together at St. Thomas on Nov. 8 for the inaugural Synergy Program, a partnership between the accounting program and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) aimed at improving diverse representation in the accounting field.

Students from Minnesota Math and Science Academy, Bloomington Kennedy High School and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School joined St. Thomas faculty and alumni in a full day of programming centered on exposure to people and paths into business and accounting fields.

“It’s all about creating pathways and opportunities for those who are underrepresented at St. Thomas and in accounting,” said Tim Radermacher, Opus College of Business accounting clinical faculty and one of the program’s main organizers.

Radermacher and others at Opus College of Business partnered with Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Artika Tyner to develop a proposal for the Synergy Program, which PwC has funded with a grant that should cover programming for the next three years.

“Accounting is still primarily a white profession. We can attract a more diverse student body and help change that,” said Larry Davis, chair of the accounting department. “Like the university as a whole, we are committed to the common good. We want to open doors. President Sullivan is focused on opening doors to the university; our little world is about opening doors to accounting.”

Visiting students networked with current accounting professionals, including several St. Thomas alumni.

“As students of diverse backgrounds, you have different, unique experiences some of your peers will not have,” said BJ Coleman ’12 to students. Coleman graduated with an accounting degree and now works at PwC. “Take advantage of these opportunities.”

Students also toured campus, went through a college admissions readiness program and were paired up with current accounting students.

“We were very intentional about putting the program together,” Tyner said. “Current students and faculty are part of the program today. Then you have that added layer of the role modeling piece; you can’t be what you can’t see. Bringing those together is crucial.”

“We want to get results,” Davis said. “I want to look out in my class in a few years and have it be more diverse. That’s what we’re after.”