Business Students Participate in Tax Challenge

November 6, 2020

On Friday, Oct. 30, St. John Fisher College students participated in the 2020 Deloitte FanTAXtic Competition. To prepare, Lauren Robbins, Samantha Haines, Brian Norsen, Noah Campanelli, and LucyMarie Gaulin spent the past month researching a case study. With the help of a faculty advisor and a Deloitte tax professional, the students developed solutions to their case, and in the process, gained a better understanding of the real-world problems accounting professionals handle every day.

The 2020 Deliotte tax team and their advisors all on Zoom.

Gregory Tortillo, a tax professional with Deloitte, mentored the students. He served as a sounding board for tax specific questions and provided assistance as the students gave practice presentations, asking questions that helped the students understand how they could improve their work before the final presentation.

Sanjeev Sekharan, an alumnus of the School of Business, served as the faculty advisor for the team, providing general assistance and advice for the students. As a first time advisor, he said he learned some important lessons that he was able to pass on to the students.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I am not always going to have the answers, and I need to be comfortable with using my resources that are available to me at Fisher, whether that is reaching out to other faculty members or other Deloitte professionals,” he said. “Asking for help from colleagues is extremely important, helpful, and makes my feedback to the students that much better.”

The team presented their findings to a panel of judges during the regional competition. The judges praised the team’s executive summary and their use of Tableau, an interactive data visualization software that helped the students present their findings.

Fisher’s relatively young team was comprised of three sophomores, one junior, and one senior. Deloitte requires teams to have a mix of two to three freshmen and sophomore, and two juniors or one junior and one senior. Brian Norsen joined the team this year and was extremely glad that he did even though coming into the challenge as a sophomore he did not have a formal tax course. Students at Fisher typically take the tax course as juniors.

“Even with little knowledge of tax, I knew that the courses I have taken so far at Fisher in the business school have prepared me to complete this case. This competition taught me a lot about teamwork, communication and increased my knowledge on tax, which will be extremely helpful going forward into my courses,” he said.

Norsen gained a new appreciation for collaboration, working closely with the four other members, the faculty advisor, and the Deloitte mentor.

“Creating a bond with my fellow competitors made all of our meetings something I looked forward to and getting to work. By working with people from Deloitte, and them providing networking options, I was able to meet many people in the business world,” he explained. “These networking opportunities and making connections will be extremely helpful to me, especially when looking for internships or jobs later on. All in all, I loved every minute of this competition, the friends I have made, the experience I gained and I would 100 percent do it again!”

With a year of experience of under their belts, Fisher’s tax team is looking forward to competing in the challenge again next year.