“So much of our work in insurance is about numbers and profitability, but I always remind my students that the industry is really about helping people manage their risks,” said...
Adrian Fitzsimons, Ph.D., CPA
Accounting Professor Spearheads Programs to Enhance Student Success
Several outstanding accounting students at St. John’s University will experience a unique spring semester. In addition to several weeks of graduate study, they will participate in a full-time internship with a major public accounting firm and have an opportunity to experience the global side of the profession by visiting the offices of several public accounting firms in Rome, Italy.
The students are inaugural members of the Accounting and Taxation Scholars Program, a new honors track within The Peter J. Tobin College of Business. Launched last fall, the program offers accelerated academic and professional opportunities for high-achieving Accounting majors. Participants are also part of the University Honors Program, which provides a broader liberal arts experience.
“This is an opportunity for our most accomplished Accounting and Taxation majors to not only focus on their chosen field, but on the broader skills they’ll need as professionals,” said Adrian Fitzsimons, Ph.D., CPA, Professor and Chair of Accounting and Taxation. “Those soft skills include strengthening communication skills - writing and presentations, - conducting accounting and tax research, using technology effectively, behaving with integrity, and developing a professional demeanor.”
The program is one of several initiatives that the accounting faculty has spearheaded over the past two years. “We have accomplished a lot in a fairly compact amount of time,” he said. “Our efforts amount to one thing: a focus on student success, which is the priority of our Department, the Tobin College of Business, and the University. Our 25 full-time faculty and our 15 adjuncts, most of whom are current or retired partners of “Big Four” accounting firms, teach specialized topics, provide networking opportunities, and enhance the value of the St. John’s degree.”
Also in its first year, the Center for Accounting Research and Technology (CART) prepares students for success on the uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. Directed by Mark Ulrich, M.B.A., CPA, who also teaches Accounting, the Center helps students devise a personal program of study for the CPA exam.
The Center offers an additional advantage — its partnership with Becker Professional Education, offers preparation for professional certifying exams. St. John’s students and recent graduates can enroll in Becker’s CPA review for $1,625, half off the regular price. Those who pass receive a reimbursement of up to entire cost.
To provide Accounting students with a broad knowledge in various fields, Dr. Fitzsimons helped develop a variety of combined degree programs. Students can major in Accounting, Economics, Finance, Management, Management Information Systems, Marketing, Risk Management and Insurance, Computer Science, Computer Security, Networking and Telecommunication, and Information Technology and then earn an M.S. or M.B.A. As an alternative, students can major in one of ten liberal arts areas and then earn an M.B.A.
The Department is also developing a program in internal audit that will allow students to specialize in fraud examination, information systems audit, or risk advisory services. Students will soon be able to select additional concentrations in their graduate degrees.
These are the most recent accomplishments to shape Accounting and Taxation under Dr. Fitzsimons’ leadership. In 2004, the program received separate accreditation by AACSB International–The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Dr. Fitzsimons, former Dean Peter J. Tobin and the Department’s faculty devoted five years to earning that distinction.
“That was an accomplishment,” said Dr. Fitzsimons. St. John’s, he observed, is one of a select few universities around the world that has dual AACSB-International accreditation for its accounting and tax programs as well as its entire college of business.
Born to Irish immigrants in Coventry, England, Dr. Fitzsimons came to Jamaica, Queens, as a child. He graduated from St. John’s Preparatory School in Brooklyn and attended St. John’s University, where he earned his bachelor’s and M.B.A. degrees. He earned his Ph.D. in Economics at the New School for Social Research in 1984.
He went on to a number of demanding jobs. He was an adjunct instructor at St. John’s, a New York City public high school teacher and a professor at Queens College-CUNY. He worked as an economist for the Coffee, Sugar and Cocoa Exchange. He worked as an auditor with Touche Ross and as a consultant to its successor firm, Deloitte & Touche, for eighteen years. In 1990, he began teaching full time at St. John’s.
Dr. Fitzsimons and his wife, Sarah, have two children, Leigh and Luke. Though his two children did their undergraduate work at other universities, both earned graduate degrees at St. John’s. “That’s what I’d always expected,” said Dr. Fitzsimons. “Wherever else they studied, I wanted them to earn their accounting degrees here.”