Five sophomores win $10,000 in PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting competition

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The winning accounting team

Emery Henschel, Staff Reporter

An accounting team comprised of five Tulane students competing in the PricewaterhouseCoopers PwC Challenge was not going to let a blizzard or Lundi Gras stand in their way of winning nationals and a prize of $10,000. 

The PwC Challenge are tax and accounting case competitions across the United States at about 50 universities selected by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Tulane was selected as a university to hold the accounting case competition in 2010, when they asked Professor Christine Smith if she would be interested in serving as their faculty mentor. Every fall, Smith advertises the competition and starts forming teams. 

“I advertise it, explain what the case competition is, explain the parameters of who can compete,” Smith said. 

This year, the competition caught the attention of five sophomores. Michael Kreisman, Sarah Lawhorne, Andrew Landsiedel, Neil Bardot, and Sara Scott formed a team and began their journey to nationals. Competition began in October, when representatives from PwC held a meeting where they told participants more about the competition. 

“They introduced the case to us, they told us all the rules, then they said pretty much ‘your presentation is two weeks from today, you have two weeks to prepare a solution, prepare slides, prepare a handout’,” Kreisman said. 

The team of five got to work, putting in about ten hours of work for the first presentation Kreisman said. After beating out 12 to 16 other groups from Tulane, the team advanced onto the next round. Their initial case presentation was video taped and sent on to judges, where they were then competing against about 50 other teams from schools all across the country. The judges then picked five teams to advance to nationals. When the team found out that they were picked, they were ecstatic. 

“We were all super excited about that, because we have never made it to that level and it is a huge accomplishment,” Smith said. 

The team began preparing for nationals, practicing constantly and meeting with professors for advice. Kreisman said that it was weeks and weeks of preparing for nationals, individually and as a team. After about a month of constant preparation, the accounting team was shocked to find out that the competition that was supposed to be held in Washington DC had been cancelled. 

“Historically it has been held in New York, but this year they had changed the venue and just had super bad timing, because they scheduled it in DC the weekend of January 21 through 23, which was the blizzard of all blizzards,” Smith said. 

Less than a day before the team was supposed to fly out with Smith and a managing partner of PwC from their New Orleans office, they found out that the competition had been cancelled. 

“We were so set, like our suitcases were packed and we were ready to go, and then we got the email,” Kreisman said. 

After initial disappointment, the team was notified that the competition would now take place virtually. They would need to submit a video presentation and then have a phone conference question and answer session with judges, this was scheduled to take place on Lundi Gras, February 8. But the team did not let this deter them, even with one team member missing, as they met in Smith’s office and set up a Skype call with the missing member. 

“We sent in the video and then we had a question and answer session over the phone, and during the question and answer section, we just nailed it,” Kreisman said. 

PwC sent out a video announcing the winners and after finding out the team had beat out Indiana University, UC Berkley, University of Southern California, and Bucknell they were just ecstatic. 

“They are the hardest working group of students I have ever seen,” Smith said. “So much discipline, perseverance.” 

Ira Solomon, Dean of the Freeman School of Business said he was very proud of the team’s accomplishments, noting that just making it to finals was a major accomplishment. 

“Actually participating in the finals and emerging as the winner, is just over the top,” Solomon said.