Working It Out
Internal audit offers hands-on experience
Accounting students at The University of Mississippi are gaining real-world experience in the university’s Office of Internal Audit.
Internal audit aims to provide independent, objective guidance to help improve the university’s operation. This is accomplished by bringing a systematic approach to evaluating and improving the effectiveness of risk management and internal controls.
Lynn Mills, director of internal audit, said the department employs four accountancy students, including two senior interns and two graduate assistants, as well as one nonaccountancy student. They perform departmental clerical duties and assist in audit-related tasks.
“In 2007, the students began performing internal-control assessments within the university departments based on our annual risk assessment,” Mills said. “The students perform these audits for 20 hours per week, unless we need assistance for a special project.”
At first, internal audit staff trained the students to perform the audits, but now the graduate assistants train the incoming seniors each year.
“This experience also helps the students,” Mills said. “Most of the seniors in the School of Accountancy perform an external internship in the spring of their senior years. The students have stated that experience in our department has been beneficial when interviewing for these internships.”
Whitney Farrell (BAccy 07) of Ripley, who completed an internal audit internship, said interns and graduate assistants are expected to collaborate in assessing risks within the university, as well as contribute ideas regarding potential weaknesses and measures to address issues.
“Communication skills, both verbal and written, are vital so that interns and graduate assistants can convey information effectively to university departments, as well as within the internal audit team,” Farrell said.
She is studying for the CPA exam, which she plans to take before she starts full-time work in August as a staff auditor with Dixon Hughes, PLLC, in Dallas. She said her work in internal audit helped her understand the unique issues of accounting for colleges and universities.
“I was able to practice communication skills with departmental personnel and those in the internal audit department,” she said. “This will benefit me in my career in public accounting, which will involve a great deal of communication with current and potential clients as well as across all levels and locations within the firm.
“I also had the opportunity to meet some extraordinary people, have built strong friendships and was able to network across many disciplines by working with various departments on campus.”
Student intern Max Graupner, originally from Germany, lived in Tupelo for two years before coming to UM. He began his studies at Ole Miss as a business management major, but, after taking Accounting 201 and 202 under Suzanne McCaffrey, he decided to change his major to accounting.
“I met with Dr. Mark Wilder, and he explained to me the great opportunities I would have with an accounting degree and that this degree would be a great foundation for my professional career,” Graupner said.
Accountancy Dean Mark Wilder said students who work in internal audit get valuable experience, and he is grateful for the unique benefit it provides.
“For the undergraduate students, it is often their first real-world experience, which is very useful to them in their future internships or full-time work,” Wilder said. “While our graduate students have typically already worked in an external internship with public accounting firms or corporations, their work in the Office of Internal Audit provides exposure not only to internal audit issues but also to the unique accounting systems used by colleges and universities.”
For fall 2008, the following students are members of the internal audit team: Matthew Chambliss of Greenwood, graduate assistant; Meredith McDaniel of Brighton, Tenn., graduate assistant; Hannah Graham of Eupora, graduate assistant; and student interns Graupner and Jessica Pierce of Hattiesburg.