Accounting option added to business degree; new programs awaiting approval

Instructor in Business Paul McDermott said students and parents whom he meets at open houses often ask if Penn State Hazleton offers an accounting program.

Now he can answer "Yes."

Penn State Hazleton added an accounting option to the Bachelor of Science in Business (BSB) degree already part of the curriculum to expand the choices available on campus.

In addition to the new accounting option, Penn State Hazleton is awaiting approval to offer three new bachelor's programs this fall. They are corporate communications, administration of justice, and rehabilitation and human services.

In all, students will be able to earn a four-year degree in any of eight major subjects without leaving Hazleton.

"It's a real change for this campus as we become more of a comprehensive campus," Elizabeth Wright, Director of Academic Affairs, said.

Penn State Hazleton developed a tradition of educating students 80 years ago when the campus opened as a two-year school. Students still have the option of starting their education in Hazleton and completing their studies at another campus, including University Park. Many students live at home find that in two years they save up to $25,000 on room and board charges that they would pay at other colleges in the region.

Whether they remain in Hazleton or finish at another campus, their diplomas still bear the Penn State University name known around the world.

Students finishing the program can advance from campus to corporations, taking slots in a business's tax, auditing, accounting or cost analysis divisions.

"There is a huge need for general accountants. We hope to fill that void," McDermott said.

Graduates also can aim at careers as controllers, treasurers, budget directors, auditors, consultants and tax planners.

Business students who select the new accounting option can become certified public accountants with additional coursework.

Dr. Wright said the campus faculty proposed offering the accounting option and the three new baccalaureate programs, after evaluating data about expected job growth, offerings at other colleges and what students said they wanted to study.

Panels and administrators review the proposals before approving a new program for Penn State Hazleton.

"We're interested in thinking about applied focus: how a student takes a degree and translates it into a job," Dr. Wright said.

The accounting option builds on the BSB degree, the first four-year degree available at Penn State Hazleton.

In addition to accounting, business students also can elect options in marketing and management or an individual option that lets them tailor studies to their goals.

Those who choose the accounting option will complete five, upper-level courses with a new faculty member. Robert Allen, a certified public accountant who holds a master's degree in business, has experience working in the field and teaching at Temple University and other institutions.

Plus, a liaison working on behalf of Penn State Hazleton and other regional campuses will network with corporations to arrange internships for students.

Interns spend 300 hours at firms, which rounds out their training.

When students select the accounting option, McDermott will steer them into accounting settings for their internships.

"That's only going to strengthen them more," he said.

Typically students enter internships when they are second semester juniors or first semester seniors. By then, they have completed most of their classroom training and are ready to use what they learned.

"When they go for that internship, we want them to hit that growth spurt and really mature into that level," McDermott said.

Sometimes, however, an offer comes earlier, and the faculty helps students take the opportunity but remain on track to graduate.

The small classes at Penn State Hazleton allow students to get to know their professors. Their relationships extend beyond classes to working on research, mentoring and preparing for internships.

McDermott remembers when Johnson and Johnson offered one student an internship that took her to California, Texas and Chicago at the start of her junior year. She did the internship and kept up with courses online.

"These doors don't open every day," McDermott said.

Another student interned at Dutch Wonderland, which wanted to hire her before she graduated.

With the faculty's help, she took the job and still earned her degree.