Celebrating Scholarship and Creativity Day

When prospective students visit St Ben’s and St John’s, they are often instantly drawn to the small-town feel and community feel of our campuses. Sometimes, students come with concerns about whether the isolated nature of the campuses impairs student abilities to land internships and jobs. However, our accounting and finance programs are very well-known, and that is perhaps best on display during Celebrating Scholarship and Creativity (CSC) Day.

April 21st was this year’s CSC Day, and campuswide, no classes were held so students could present their research and creative works. Four students in the accounting and finance department presented their work via Zoom, and 300 members of the Minnesota (and beyond) business community showed up. Attendees came from over 100 different companies, including the nationally known companies The Mayo Clinic, General Mills, Wells Fargo, Grant Thornton, Deloitte, Medtronic, UnitedHealth Group, EY, 3M, KPMG, Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, PWC, and Xcel Energy.

Over the semester, these students conducted two robust surveys and received nearly 100,000 pieces of data from 1,400 respondents. The students designed the surveys, used data analysis techniques to draw conclusions, pulled together 160 visually appealing PowerPoint slides, and presented the results in a one hour and 45-minute engaging presentation.

(Left to right) Max, Annika, Boz, Jaiden, and Jake.

There was such strong interest in the students’ work that the Minnesota Society of CPAs has asked the students to repeat their performance and a major summer conference where hundreds more will be in attendance.

Participant feedback was outstanding. As one put it, “I do a lot of the free CPEs that big firms put on to maintain my CPA license, and these presentations by your students blow those out of the water. They are better presenters than 95% of the professional big firm folks putting on the other webinars I attend.”

The student researchers were grateful for the experience. Annika Rzestukek, who will begin work as an auditor at Deloitte after graduation, said, “I'm very happy about how the presentation went and glad people enjoyed it. Although I was apprehensive at first, I am beyond grateful for this experience. I have learned so many great Excel, PowerPoint, and presentation skills that I will utilize in my future.”

Max Kocher, who has a job lined up with KPMG, said, “It was a very valuable experience, and I’m glad I decided to do it. Projects/experiences like this are what I will remember when I look back on my years at St. John’s, and I’m glad the work our group put in paid off in the end!!”

Jake Binley, who will be joining Deloitte’s audit practice, said, “I was really grateful for the opportunity to develop some skills we would not necessarily get to in the classroom. Through this presentation, I expanded my use of excel functions, reading of graphs, presenting skills, and many other abilities. It was a great project that I was happy to be a part of.”

Jaiden McCollum, who will work as an auditor in CLA’s non-profit practice, said, “I would highly recommend this to anyone considering doing this research. Not only did I learn technical Excel and PowerPoint skills, but I was able to get to know my professor and classmates better. I looked forward to our meetings each week, and our research provided some cool insights into questions I have been curious about. Presenting our research was definitely the cherry on top of my accounting career at CSB/SJU!”

Professor Boz Bostrom, who mentored them on the project, had this to say, “In mid-January, these four started with nothing but a fairly loose vision. Three months later, they had hundreds of business professionals, including many senior executives, hanging on their every word. I was there simply as a sounding board. This was all them. They did a great job, just like I knew they would.”

At St. Ben’s and St. John’s, we not only give students personal experiences with a community feel, but we also provide them with tremendous opportunities to showcase their talents.