Jindal School Team Places Second in Grant Thornton Competition

Jindal School Grant Thornton Competition team, 2016

Celebrating second place (from the left): Grant Thornton partner Pat McCown, a 1991 JSOM alumnus and member of the JSOM advisory council; sophomore Kathryn (Katie) Rector; junior Mariam Allahrakha; graduate student and team captain Melissa Huang; junior Amanda Hernandez; senior Pablo Juarez Herrera; senior Anirudhaa (Ani) Ravi; and BS in Accounting Program Director and faculty sponsor John Barden

A team of six Naveen Jindal School of Management accounting students “flew above” the competition to win second place in a recent case competition sponsored by the Dallas office of Grant Thornton, one of the nation’s leading accounting firms. The team was given two weeks prior to the competition to develop complex business solutions, as a potential auditor for a fictitious travel agency.

The team — designating itself APEX Group LLC, with the tagline “Your Company, Our Top Priority” — prepared and presented accounting recommendations regarding tax, advisory and audit services for ITS (International Travel Services) to a group of Grant Thornton executives. Team members included graduate student and team leader Melissa Huang, seniors Pablo Juarez Herrera and Anirudhaa Ravi, juniors Mariam Allahrakha and Amanda Hernandez, and sophomore Kathryn Rector. All are accounting majors.

“We had an amazing and dedicated team, even though we all were ridiculously busy with other commitments,” says Huang. “It made me realize how invested each team member was and how much everyone was willing to sacrifice, particularly sleep, to help each other.”

The daylong competition on October 28 pitted UT Dallas students against teams from Texas Christian University (first-place winner), The University of Texas at Arlington and University of North Texas. Different from the competition last year, teams were thrown a curveball at the last minute, says JSOM faculty sponsor John Barden. After initial presentations, finalists were given 30 minutes to prepare revised presentations regarding a potential outside investor taking over ITS.

“What this did was make it as if the real world had stepped in,” says Barden, BS in Accounting program director. “I think it’s very good when we venture outside the University and get our students ready for the real world. I am very proud of how this team worked together so well.”

Team members will split winnings of $2,500. Huang says she plans to spend her portion on tuition for graduate school, as well as costs associated with taking her CPA exam next year.

Huang says what the team gained from the competition was experience that classes cannot always provide.

“I think more than anything — no matter how prepared you may think you are — you realize you have to be adaptable and think on your feet,” she says. “It’s also crucial to know how to present yourself. We are a service-based industry, and we have to please the client and make a connection. At the end of the day, it’s how we present our material and how we represent our firm in front of a potential client.”

Huang also emphasized that the team could not have been as successful without Barden’s assistance.

“John Barden provided us with so many resources and faculty members. We are very appreciative of him. No matter when or where, he was there for us, and we are so grateful and proud to have been able to represent UT Dallas.”