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Club for Black Accountants Returns to USC

The National Association of Black Accountants brings Leventhal students together for education, networking and outreach

January 21, 2020

Paul Adams II ’20 became an accounting major by accident.

“There are no accountants in my family,” said the Washington, D.C. native, “and I came into 'Intro to Accounting' with the usual stereotypes — that accountants are bean counters, that you have to be good at math. But that’s really not the case.”

Uncertain what he wanted to pursue at USC, Adams entered as a computer science major because he was familiar with it. His parents and his two sisters are in information technology. However, his computer classes just didn’t click with him, he said.

But because he actually WAS good at math, he signed up for Leventhal’s “Intro to Accounting course.”

“And I fell in love with it,” he said.

“NABA is necessary because the field of accounting is not as diverse as it should be and not representative of the American population."—Paul Adams II '20, President, National Association for Black Accountants

He also got into the highly selective School of Cinematic Arts. Today he is a senior with a double major in accounting and film production.

Yes, there are jobs for that.

Adams didn’t see a lot of other black students in his new Leventhal cohort. And when he learned that the USC chapter of the National Association for Black Accountants (NABA) had fallen to the wayside years ago, he decided to re-launch the chapter, becoming its president in his junior year. 

Relaunching the Club

NABA launched in 1969 with nine black accountants. At that time, there were 100,000 CPAs in America, but only 150 of them were black, Adams said. “That’s less than 1 percent. You would think that 30-odd years later things have changed, but it’s about 3 to 4 percent.”

“NABA is necessary because the field of accounting is not as diverse as it should be and not representative of the American population,” he added.

The USC Chapter hosts a variety of panels, bringing professionals from the Big Four to speak to members about what it’s like working in the field day to day. Among the networking events planned this fall was a coffee chat with professionals at Deloitte’s downtown Los Angeles office.

Mentoring the Next Generation

NABA’s mentorship program is especially meaningful for Adams. Partnering with Upward Bound, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education that provides support to high school students in their preparation for college, NABA members visit local schools to inform students about opportunities in accounting, share their experiences at USC and answer questions about accounting and college.

“It was wonderful to watch my students ask questions and be fully engaged in the discussion facilitated by the NABA students. Many of my students commented on how they didn’t know USC had so many opportunities, and it inspired them to explore the institution as a viable option,” said Cynthia Diaz, project director for the Upward Bound West Adams program at Dorsey High School.

“The connection they developed with the NABA students allowed them to see themselves at an institution like USC. These type of outreach efforts are important to our communities so that students can envision themselves in these spaces, and know that they belong and will be supported.”

Adams is a perfect example for these young students of how diverse the opportunities within accounting are. He plans to be a writer and producer.

What do writing and producing have to do with accounting? “You’d be surprised how much you’ll find the skills of accounting within different professions,” Adams said. “Accounting is the language of business, so it’s very applicable to any field.”