On the morning of Saturday, October 1, UIC Business students Cristian Perez and Elizabeth Molina sat down for a round of “Who’s the real CPA?” at the UIUC College of Business. Three professionals stood at the front of an auditorium before an audience of nearly 300 people and answered questions about their personal lives, with audience members trying to guess who was and was not a professional accountant. Questions from the audience touched on professional background, lifestyle, and family history, and with each answer, the audience recalibrated its assumptions about what kind of person a CPA could be.
The event was part of the ALPFA Midwest Regional Symposium, a gathering of ALPFA student chapters from across the region. Perez and Molina took over forty students from the UIC Chapter (formerly known as the Latino Association of Business Students), a feat of chaperonage that won them recognition. “We wanted to bring as many students as possible, and it turned out that we’d brought the most members of any chapter,” said Molina, the current UIC ALPFA Fundraising Chair. “Caterpillar gave us recognition by sponsoring five UIC members to attend the national ALPFA convention in Las Vegas this coming summer.”
Perez, the current UIC ALPFA President, has attended ALPFA conventions in Orlando, Dallas, and NYC, got his first big four internship after meeting a Deloitte recruiter at a past convention. “Students make new contacts with companies at these conventions,” said Perez, describing the two floors of recruiters at the NYC convention. “And whether you attend further conventions, or just attend the ALPFA events here in Chicago, you’re bound to see familiar faces and strengthen those connections.”
Molina noted that for students from non-urban campuses, the conventions were essential, though urban students like those at UIC still have much to gain from attending. “When you’re at these conventions, it feels like every big firm is there,” said Molina. “Granted, UIC ALPFA members have access to a lot of big firms in downtown Chicago, but there are others–for example, Microsoft and Walmart–that we get access to at the national conventions.”
But the conventions are more than just a career fair, said Perez. “Students do more than just network at these events, though,” Perez pointed out. “You network, sure, but you also have networking workshops, resumé workshops, leadership panels, and great keynote speakers,” he said, noting that the keynote speaker in Champaign was Illinois Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti.
Nonetheless, personal connections are an important part of the ALPFA experience. “I attended a convention once on behalf of HACU, whom I met through ALPFA, and got an internship at Comcast,” recounts Molina. “Not only did I get valuable work experience in marketing and communications; I moved to Philadelphia for the internship, which required me to become more independent and grow as a person. This in turn prepared me to study abroad in Madrid. Then, months later, I connected with an ALPFA member from the CIA who was from Madrid, and we bonded over what we had in common–you can see how the experiences and connections build on each other.”
For Molina, a marketing major in her senior year, a wide range of opportunities opened up in ALPFA, which can often seem geared to accounting and finance. “In addition to the Comcast internship and all of the professional training, there’s also a lot of time in the community volunteering with Chicago organizations.” And there’s the benefit of having ALPFA on your resumé. “The name stands out to recruiters,” said Perez. “It tells people that you have a strong set of relationships both as a professional and a member of the community.”
As senior accounting major, Perez also appreciates the heavy presence of his field in the ALPFA network. “In Champaign, I listened to these students ask questions of the three professionals,” he said, “there were questions that stemmed from students’ strong desire to become CPAs, and answers that showed how varied the backgrounds of CPAs could be.” In the end, all three professionals turned out to be CPAs, which surprised a lot of members, Perez said. Drawing an analogy to ALPFA, Perez clarified that you don’t have to be Latino to join ALPFA. He and Molina emphasized that the only qualification for joining ALPFA is a desire to be a part of the community.
For more information about ALPFA at UIC, visit their website and Facebook page, or contact Cristian at firstname.lastname@example.org. On November first, ALPFA will offer a networking workshop with representatives from Best Buy, and on November 3, ALPFA hosts a leadership summit at the pwc offices on Wacker Drive.