By Deanna C. White
When Margaret Fiorentino takes office as the new executive director of the Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) international honor organization this August, she will face a daunting yet exciting challenge.
Fiorentino will have to ensure the organization's technology platforms and communication channels remain relevant to a social media savvy generation of students, while maintaining and evolving the traditional networking and membership opportunities that have made BAP the premiere honor organization for financial information students and professionals.
Those who already know her say Fiorentino is more than up to the job.
"(Margaret) will be an effective leader and continue to further the mission of Beta Alpha Psi. Her passion for the organization, proven track record, and strategic views will benefit the organization for years to come", said BAP Board President Blane Ruschak.
The BAP board of directors appointed Fiorentino as its new executive director June 3, and her new title was effective at that time. She will assume full responsibilities in August 2013.
Fiorentino has been with BAP for six years and was serving as manager of chapter services, where she managed all aspects of chapter reporting and was the main liaison for chapter inquiries for BAP's more than 300 domestic and international chapters.
As executive director, Fiorentino will handle all aspects of BAP membership activities and operations, BAP officials say.
Fiorentino said she is both deeply humbled by, and passionately committed to, stewardship of BAP. Even for today's social media driven generation of students, Fiorentino says BAP still remains the students' touchstone for professional membership organizations.
"BAP is usually a student's first introduction to professional memberships. Many of our members will become practicing CPAs or pursue careers in private industry and will join professional organizations", Fiorentino said. "As the premier honor organization for accounting, finance, and information systems, students are given the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the finest and most dedicated representatives of these professions and are able to gain recognition in a tough job market. By participating in BAP, they will have a distinct advantage."
Fiorentino promises that under her tenure, BAP will continue to create and expand outstanding programming to increase "membership value" in the organization.
In addition to initiatives that encourage and promote service and professional interaction, Fiorentino said this year BAP will incorporate "essential skills" into its program for chapters. BAP will ask those chapters to conduct a mandatory session for their members on such skills as business writing and presentation skills, ethical decision making, change management, and conflict management.
"It is one thing to land an internship or job, but essential skills will help these students stand out from the rest", Fiorentino said. "They will help our members go from good to great in a professional setting."
In an age where many jobseekers and professionals view social media platforms as their greatest networking tools, Fiorentino said it is critical that BAP technology platforms and communication vehicles continue to evolve to remain relevant to younger generations. Fiorentino said BAP already has several technology options in place to engage those members.
"We invite all our students and alumni to join our BAPConnect social media site, as this site allows our members to network and share ideas and best practices in chapter operations and membership retention", Fiorentino said. "The site includes blogs from students and professionals, event updates, and videos that chapters share. The main purpose of BAPConnect is to provide our members an online networking site. We are encouraging more alumni to join and participate."
Fiorentino said BAP also continues to evolve its robust website, where student members are highlighted and information is readily available to help BAP members participate in events and opportunities provided by the organization.
But Fiorentino said she believes the greatest challenge facing BAP and this next generation of financial information students will be the lack of experienced mentorship.
"With a large number of financial professionals retiring over the next decade, the professions overall will face many challenges", Fiorentino said. "Over the next several years, BAP will implement an alumni networking program [to help meet this challenge]. By working with current and future chapters, BAP will organize targeted alumni events where students and alumni can meet and network on a professional level – fostering strong relationships to other professionals in the accounting, finance, and information systems professions."
By establishing these networking events, Fiorentino said BAP will be able to access more professionals to participate in its regional and annual meetings.
"The business intelligence piece – alumni sharing their knowledge and experience – will be crucial to us", Fiorentino said.
Not surprisingly, Fiorentino, who is known for her strategic thinking, is already able to list several short- and long-term goals for the organization.
Her short-term goals include:
- Utilizing social media tools (BAPConnect, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) to reach out to past alumni to join the network.
- Creating a BAP history video in anticipation of BAP's one hundredth anniversary in 2019.
Over the long term she plans to:
- Stay abreast of emerging technology to ensure BAP is meeting the needs of its members.
- Enhance membership with the inclusion of several new international chapters.
- Ensure the quality of the programs and events sponsored by BAP.
- Continue to grow the BAP brand within the profession, which will include increasing the ranks of BAP professional partners.
Ultimately, Fiorentino said she wants to make sure BAP remains the premiere organization students look to when laying the groundwork for active professional involvement throughout their careers, which she believes can dramatically influence their success and the success of the professions.
"Our overall goal is to continue providing our students the best membership value possible. We will strive to prepare our members the best we can for the future of the accounting, finance, and information systems professions", Fiorentino said.
Fiorentino will replace Hadassah Baum, CPA, CGMA, CMA, CAE, who is retiring in August after serving as the executive director since 2003.
Founded in 1919, the BAP honor organization for financial information students and professionals is dedicated to promoting the study and practice of accounting, finance, and information systems; providing opportunities for self-development, service, and association among members and practicing professionals; and encouraging a sense of ethical, social, and public responsibility. Now headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, BAP has over 300 chapters on college and university campuses and more than 300,000 members.