Accountancy Students Gain Hands-on Experience in Internal Audit Department

OXFORD, Miss. – Accounting students at the University of
Mississippi are gaining real-world experience in the
university’s Office of Internal Audit.

Internal audit aims to provide independent, objective
assurance to help improve the university’s operation. This
is accomplished by bringing a systematic approach to
evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management
and internal controls.

Lynn Mills, director of internal audit, said the department
employs four accountancy students, including two senior
interns and two graduate assistants, as well as one
non-accountancy student. They perform departmental clerical
duties and assist in audit-related tasks.

“In 2007, the students began performing internal control
assessments within the university departments based on our
annual risk assessment,” Mills said. “The students perform
these audits for 20 hours per week, unless a special
project arises for which we need assistance.”

At first, internal audit staff trained the students to
perform the audits, but now the graduate assistants train
the incoming seniors each year.

“This experience also helps the students,” Mills said.
“Most of the seniors in the School of Accountancy perform
an external internship in the spring of their senior year.
The students have stated that experience in our department
has been beneficial when interviewing for these

Recent UM accountancy graduate Whitney Farrell of Ripley
said interns and graduate assistants are expected to
collaborate in assessing risks within the university, as
well as contribute ideas regarding potential weaknesses and
measures to address issues.

“Communication skills, both verbal and written, are vital
so that interns and graduate assistants can convey
information effectively to university departments, as well
as within the internal audit team,” Farrell said.

She is studying for the CPA exam, which she plans to take
before she starts full-time work in August as a staff
auditor with Dixon Hughes PLLC in Dallas. She said her work
in internal audit has helped her understand the unique
issues of accounting for colleges and universities.

“I have been able to practice communication skills with
departmental personnel, as well as with those in the
internal audit department,” she said. “This will benefit me
in my career in public accounting, which will involve a
great deal of communication with current and potential
clients, as well as across all levels and locations within
the firm.

“I have also had the opportunity to meet some extraordinary
people and have built strong friendships, and have been
able to network across many disciplines by working with
various departments on campus.”

Student intern Max Graupner, originally from Germany, lived
in Tupelo for two years before coming to UM. He began his
studies at Ole Miss as a business management major, but
after taking Accounting 201 and 202 under Suzanne
McCaffrey, he decided to change his major to accounting.

“I met with Dr. Mark Wilder, and he explained to me the
great opportunities I would have with an accounting degree,
and that this degree would be a great foundation for my
professional career,” Graupner said.

Accountancy Dean Mark Wilder said students who work in
internal audit get valuable experience, and he is grateful
for the unique benefit it provides.

“For the undergraduate student workers, it is often their
first ‘real-world’ experience, which is very useful to them
in their future internships or full-time work,” Wilder
said. “While our graduate student workers have typically
already worked in an external internship with public
accounting firms or corporations, their work in the Office
of Internal Audit provides exposure not only to internal
audit issues but also to the unique accounting systems used
by colleges and universities.”

Accounting students interested in the internship program
can contact Mills at

For fall 2008, the following students are members of the
internal audit team: Matthew Chambliss of Greenwood,
graduate assistant; Meredith McDaniel of Brighton, Tenn.,
graduate assistant; Hannah Graham of Eupora, graduate
assistant; and student interns Graupner and Jessica Pierce
of Hattiesburg.

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To learn more about the School of Accountancy, visit