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Marissa Nennig, Matthew Schemmel, Taylor Belke and Zach Yarnell

One of Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien’s goals in running for Auditor was to strengthen his department’s relationship to the local auditing and accounting community. Professor Lorenzo Patelli of DU’s Daniels School of Business saw an opportunity for students in his Corporate Advising course that would benefit both the students and the Auditor’s Office. Accountancy seniors Marissa Nennig, Taylor Belke, Matthew Schemmel, and Zach Yarnell took advantage of the challenge to gain real-world experience to complement their classroom instruction.

“It was a pleasure working with Professor Patelli,” said O’Brien, a certified public accountant. “He’s committed to exposing his students to a range of real-life experienceIt dovetailed perfectly with my desire to build relationships with local colleges and universities, and create opportunities for recent graduates in our department.”

Beginning in September, the Daniels students met with different departments and created an internal risk self-assessment questionnaire that could be used by any department. The self-assessment includes questions on succession planning, policies and procedures, and overall performance with respect to established goals

“This taught me a lot about government accounting,” Belke said. “In addition, I learned project management, how to be a good communicator and how to run a meeting.”

The students were able to put their technical skills to use while learning the soft skills they’ll need on the job. To evaluate whether a department had good internal controls, the students looked for areas of potential risk or weakness and the procedures in place to prevent them.

“We rotated who was the team lead each week,” Schemmel said. “The point person had to keep the team on track. We each had a hand in different parts of the project and all helped each other out. We learned the value of team work and team building.”

All four students have received offers from accounting firms for jobs following graduation.

“Corporate Advisory offers students an experiential learning experience aimed at developing interpersonal and project management skills that are so essential in contemporary volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) work environments,” said Patelli. “Corporate partners have the opportunity to gain exposure to talented, motivated, and high-performing students and engage with them on a real problem. The course is a great example of the challenge-driven education that is offered at Daniels.”