The tension in the air was so thick you could practically taste it as anxious students dressed in black business suits huddled in teams of five outside classrooms and in the atrium of the Lillis Business Complex at the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business. In hushed voices, they reviewed their presentations one last time--going over who would say what when, trying to anticipate questions. This went on periodically for more than three hours as thirty teams participated in PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PWC's) xACT (short for Extreme Accounting) competition at the college on October 24, 2006.
"Public speaking is not easy for business professionals, much less sophomores in college," explained Accounting Instructor Joel Sneed, who helped coordinate the event. "Students were nervous. They wanted to do a good job and impress the judges from PWC."
And students did just that.
"The level of participation, the professionalism, and the poise and enthusiasm of our students blew PWC staff away. All the teams did an excellent job," said Sneed, who noted that with 150 students, the Lundquist College had the highest participation rate among the forty universities that fielded teams for the xAct competition.
Because it paired juniors, seniors and sophomores, the competition also helped students learn from each other as they analyzed a fictitious case related to establishing a principals-based or rules-based accounting system for a hypothetical country. The teams were structured such that seniors were executives, juniors were managers, and the pre-business majors (the sophomores) handled the number crunching. This enabled upperclassmen to educate the lowerclassmen. As Katie Stalsberg, a sophomore on Team xPert pointed out, "The xACT competition gave me an opportunity to apply the concepts I learned in my courses, but It wouldn't have been nearly as great of an experience if the juniors and seniors hadn't been so helpful. They were very patient and wanted to make sure that each younger member understood what we were doing."
Team xPert--whose members include Nathan Apsel, Jon Campo, Erin Hoffman, Katie Stalsberg, and David Weinstein--took first place at the college's competition this year. They were one of four semifinalists that won $1,000 from PWC. The other prize-winning teams were Smit and Roller, Team Machine, and Bluechips. A video of Team xPert's presentation was also sent to PWC's New York City office to participate in the national competition against other universities for a chance to win $10,000.