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Pelton takes skills abroad, heads for new job

Matt Pelton with some of his students in Ghana.

(Editor's note: Matt Pelton graduated from Augustana in 2010 with a double major in accounting and business. He also was an Academic All-American in basketball.)

By Matt Pelton '10

It is hard to believe that it has been over a year since I graduated from Augustana. In just a year and a half since graduation, I have been fortunate enough to travel from coast to coast, expanding my accounting knowledge and developing professionally in the field.

I recently completed a one-year postgraduate program at the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF) with the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) in Norwalk, Connecticut. Later this month, I will begin a career in accounting advisory with KPMG in their San Francisco office.

As a postgraduate technical assistant with the GASB, I was exposed to some of the brightest and most influential people in business and accounting today. It was a humbling experience at times, but also a satisfying one to see that Augustana had prepared its students to interact with those people and to contribute to their conversations and processes. I was confident in knowing that the coursework at Augustana had prepared me to comprehend and analyze complex accounting issues and, when I had questions, to communicate with others effectively.

Matt Pelton (far left) at the Babson Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy.

The postgraduate program was a great opportunity to improve my technical research and writing skills while learning the details of the accounting standard-setting process. I worked on three technical projects, two of which were issued as final Statements, and one research project throughout the year. Preparing documents to be presented at the Board table and presenting those documents to the Board during monthly meetings were invaluable work experiences. Without a doubt, it was a very challenging and rewarding experience.

Working with the GASB increased my understanding for governmental accounting concepts and the standard-setting process, and allowed me to research the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) projects and network with its staff. What I cherished most about the experience was the sincerity and generosity of the people at the FAF and, most importantly, the family atmosphere of the GASB, which mirrored so many of my experiences at Augustana.

Return to Ghana

Through relationships developed in Connecticut came an opportunity to return to Ghana, where I studied abroad with Augustana in 2010. During my year at the FAF, I worked with another GASB postgraduate technical assistant, Dan Brown, who had also traveled to Ghana with his alma mater, Babson College (The Nyansa Project). Additionally, I befriended a FASB project manager, Akwasi Ampofo, who was born and raised in Ghana. Throughout the year, we all shared stories of our common experiences, became close friends, and discussed ways we could give back to the people of Ghana.

In between the GASB term ending and my start date at KPMG, I traveled to Ghana for three weeks in July and August. I visited my host family and friends from Augustana foreign term, stayed with Akwasi's family and friends, researched community needs and education-based NGOs, and participated in a Babson College program with Dan.

The Babson program involved teaching entrepreneurship and leadership skills to secondary school students (ages 16-22) from the Western and Central regions of Ghana for one week. Roughly 100 students came to the inaugural Babson Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy, where a staff of 11 Babson alumni and students (myself included) provided instruction on core business concepts (including accounting) while helping the students further develop their own business ideas, leadership, and public speaking skills.

We challenged the students to think creatively and be resourceful, sharing our personal experiences and thoughts on entrepreneurial leadership. It was very rewarding to impart business and leadership concepts to such interested and eager students. The enthusiasm with which the Ghanaian students approached learning certainly inspires me to make the most of the opportunities that lie before me.*

I am looking forward to building off of my experiences at the GASB as I begin with KPMG as a senior associate in San Francisco this month. I will be joining its Accounting Advisory Services group, which provides a variety of services that help clients interpret and implement the current accounting literature and the proposed changes that are currently being deliberated by the GASB, FASB, and International Accounting Standards Board (IASB).

Challenges and opportunities

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that my life would unfold in this way. Once upon a time as an underclassman, I had no interest in studying accounting. Four years removed from those times, I find myself bouncing from Rock Island to Connecticut to Ghana to California as I chase new accounting opportunities.

Matt Pelton with GASB.

It is exciting to see the results of the department's commitment to improving its curriculum and expanding its internship and career opportunities. The Certificate program will truly benefit students as they drill down into accounting topics and prepare for the CPA exam and careers in the field. I have no doubt that the department will continue to adapt its practices and prepare its students for the challenges and opportunities they will face as they move on from Augustana.

As a recent graduate, I am extremely grateful for the sincere willingness of the professors to help their students progress as accountants, secure employment opportunities, and develop as people.

*(Forbes article about Ghana program; Bloomberg Business Week article)