Program seeks to bolster minority student participation in accounting

Cynthia Turner smiling at camera

Program seeks to bolster minority student participation in accounting

By Aaron Marshall

Looking to recreate the nurturing environment she found as an undergraduate at her historically black college alma mater, Professor Cynthia Turner launched a program to bolster minority student participation in the accounting field at The Ohio State University in 2016.

Three short years later, the balance sheet is looking up as Turner's initiative—known as Project THRIVE—has managed to nearly double the number of underrepresented minority students majoring in accounting at Ohio State. And the sky is the limit as Turner looks to deepen her impact through a new partnership with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

“There is such a great demand for students of color in our field and so many opportunities for them,” said Turner, a North Carolina A&T State University graduate. “I'm just excited about the possibilities and potential for this program moving forward.”

The THRIVE program features an array of services for underrepresented minority accounting students including modest scholarships, a special first-year introductory course, a textbook library, and networking, internship and community service opportunities.

For students in the program, THRIVE can give them a sense of belonging on Ohio State's sprawling campus. “I would say that Project THRIVE is a community within a community at Ohio State,” said Caroline Cruz, a third-year accounting major. “Ohio State can seem overwhelming, but this gives you a community right off the bat. It can help you financially, but it also can help you achieve whatever goals you have.”

Recent graduate Devin Syar said the program became his campus home. “It really helped me find my spot on campus,” he said. “The biggest thing was getting to talk to people who were in the exact same situation I was in. It really created a conducive environment to help each other out and build each other up.”

A key component of the program is a first-year accounting survey course that all THRIVE participants must take prior to beginning core accounting classes. “It's about getting your feet wet and making sure they understand the accounting terminology and realize the full breadth of opportunities as far as careers are concerned,” Turner said. “I try to give students a head start by teaching the core concepts and getting students comfortable with the language.”

Another program highlight involves Turner taking the students to a retail clothing store to pick out a formal business suit that is tailored to fit each student.

“It's important because I want them to be as confident as they can be,” Turner said. “When you're fitted appropriately, it can impact your presentation and how you feel about yourself. It also gives me an opportunity to teach them about other professional matters that are vital to their success without being in the classroom.”

The cost of the business suits is picked up by one of the “Big Four” accounting firms as are other aspects of the program. Turner said the industry giants are eager for a pipeline of diverse young accountants. “They were all pushing for something like this and excited to jump on board,” she said.

Turner has recently stepped into the position of Assistant Dean and Chief Diversity Officer at the Fisher College of Business and hopes to expand parts of this program college wide.