Jennifer Dirienzo had 36 years of tax experience with Deloitte Tax LLP when she retired; and she was an established accounting lecturer at NC State’s Poole College of Management. So, she was more than prepared to embrace her latest challenge: developing a graduate-level tax certificate program –– delivered online.
Dirienzo and her colleagues embarked on a thoughtful collaboration with the big four public accounting firms (PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG), asking them to what degree they would value employees or prospective employees who had completed a non-degree tax certificate.
The responses were uniform –– managers thought a general tax certificate “was fine,” but the real opportunity was in specialization. “If you want to mix that in with analytics and technology – we think that’s the wave of the future.’”
Within a year, the Poole College team developed a pilot program comprised of 12 one-credit hour modules for the Tax Analytics and Technology Online Certificate (TATC) – a non-degree certificate program delivered through NC State Executive Education.
The feedback from the pilot cohort of students and their employers – KPMG and Deloitte – was positive. So much so, in fact, that Dirienzo and her colleagues saw that these analytics and technology modules presented an opportunity to branch out.
“I feel like this is a stepping stone,” said Dirienzo.
Kathy Krawczyk, Dixon Hughes Professor of Accounting and head of the department, agreed.
“Our initial cohorts have all been with public accounting firms. The positive response to the modules –– from the online delivery format to the forward-looking, immediately applicable content –– has been incredibly encouraging. We think we can expand in several ways.”
Dirienzo and Krawczyk have been working together on two particular avenues of expansion: one will be the offering of the TATC on a graduate level for-credit track. The for-credit graduate certificate option is expected to be available as early as January 2019. Poole expects this expanded option to appeal to a particular corporate market segment in a way the non-degree executive education certificate may not.
“You can see someone who’s been working in public accounting who doesn’t have that tax expertise or doesn’t have that additional certification there. You can see someone in corporate who’s in that tax realm and wants to distinguish themselves in some way by picking up the analytics side of it,” said Krawczyk.
Poole College also envisions making this material available to Master of Accounting students. Three modules are already available: Database Management in Tax: Access; Project management and Process Documentation in Tax: Microsoft Project and Visio; and Visual Analytics in Tax: Excel Power Tools.
“MAC students who completed these modules learned Access, they learned project management tools and they learned data visualization tools, all within a tax context. And they were able to pick out some of the technology and the analytics side. So, they’re going to be walking out the door and saying ‘not only do I have the tax, now I’ve got a little analytics with it, too,’” said Krawczyk.
Both Krawczyk and Dirienzo agree that the possibilities for expansion don’t end there. Krawczyk suggests that MAC students might also find that the technology developed as part of the TATC will be used in a different context –– using technology pieces of the modules in an audit context, for example; or in analysis of a business environment context. Krawczyk and Dirienzo are looking back at the modules and evaluating which of the technology elements are either ready for use on their own or could be amended to be stand-alone modules.
Krawczyk is excited that “now we have all this new online content that we can use in different contexts for executive education, student and professional education, certificates, stand-alone classes –– we’re excited about the future possibilities and doors this opens for us.”
This article was written for Poole College of Management by Fran Westcott.