Accounting Gets Extreme in PWC xACT Competition

PwC xACT Competition

Right Stuff Convergence won first place in the Freeman School's first xACT Competition. Left to right, Max Ryan, Whitney Aerenson, Christine Ouder, Patrick Murphy and Michael McIver.

Twelve teams of Freeman School students put their skills to the test in October as participants in the PricewaterhouseCoopers xACT Competition, one of the nation’s leading case competitions for accounting and business students.

The xACT Competition—short for xTREME Accounting—is part of the PricewaterhouseCoopers xTREME Games, which were launched in 2002 to increase students’ exposure to professional services and the world of public accounting. Each year, more than 150,000 students nationwide participate in PwC’s xACT and xTAX competitions to test their skills on challenging cases, gain a greater understanding of career opportunities in public accounting and make valuable connections with professionals in the industry. This year was the Freeman School’s first time participating in the competition.

The 12 teams—each made up of five business students— began preparing for the contest on Oct. 8, when they met with Kathy Nieland, managing partner of PwC’s New Orleans office, and received the case they’d be working on. Over the next two weeks, the students spent hours analyzing the case and developing solutions to the real-world problems posed in the case.

On Oct. 22, the teams presented those solutions to a distinguished panel of PwC partners who served as judges for the competition, including Nieland, Casey Herman, an audit partner in PwC’s Chicago office, and Ted Orihel, Brett Parrish and David Crabtree, audit partners in PwC’s Houston office.

Each team delivered a 12-minute PowerPoint presentation and then faced 10 minutes of tough questioning from the judges. When the video cameras were turned off at the conclusion of each presentation, the judges made it a point to spend a few extra minutes with each team, offering its members a candid critique of their presentation.

“I can’t think of another opportunity where students can get that sort of valuable feedback from partners in a Big Four public accounting firm,” says Christine Smith, professor of practice in accounting and faculty mentor for the competition. “It was just a fantastic experience.”

Right Stuff Convergence, a team featuring Christine Ouder, Patrick Murphy, Max Ryan, Whitney Aerenson and Michael McIver, won first place in the competition and the right to represent Tulane in the xACT national competition. Alpha Kappa Psi, which featured Philip Applebaum, David Poor, Joe Dixon, Rachel Morales and Arielle Drucker, took second-place honors. Each team received a prize of $1,250 to split among members.

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