Beta Alpha Psi’s in-person competition in Seattle was canceled because of COVID-19, but that didn’t stop a team of Carson Cougs from winning first place.

Carson College of Business students Samantha Kelley and Andrew Hansen recorded a Zoom presentation for judges in late February, taking the top prize in the Impact category for service projects that included a food drive and cat blankets for an animal shelter.

With the competition’s plans changing rapidly because of the novel coronavirus, the students only had a few days to record and submit the presentation they had planned to give in person.

“This was during a busy part of the semester,” said Jason Porter, an accounting faculty member and advisor to the WSU chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, an international honor society for financial information professionals. “It shows our students’ dedication and willingness to adapt.”

In their eight-minute presentation, Kelley and Hansen highlighted two recent projects from the chapter.

Students organized a food drive in November to stock the pantry for a couple moving into a Palouse Habitat for Humanity house. The chapter’s goal was to collect enough groceries to fill three shopping carts. During the eight-hour food drive outside the Pullman Walmart, they gathered 10 carts of food and other household items and about $300 in cash.

“Growing up in a low-income family, we sometimes relied on food banks, so giving back is really important to me,” said Kelley, a senior majoring in accounting and the chapter’s vice president of service. “I also wanted to get our chapter more involved in bettering the local community in various ways.”

“The Pullman community really came together to support us, and we had a great time doing it as well,” said Hansen, a sophomore majoring in accounting and management information systems.

Chapter members also teamed up with job recruiters from the accounting firm Deloitte to make 68 fleece cat blankets for the Humane Society of the Palouse. Shelter employees give each cat its own blanket, which is given to the new owner at adoption.

The project allowed students to network with accounting professionals, but in an informal, more relaxed setting. “It eases the tensions when you’re not drilling each other with questions,” Hansen said.

The WSU chapter competed against other Beta Alpha Psi chapters from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho universities. Judges were impressed by how the chapter has grown its community service hours. They also liked the idea of combining a service project with professional networking.

“It’s something that could be replicated anywhere,” Porter said. “We’ve already had interest from two other companies who want to plan similar events with our students.”

The regional win qualifies the chapter to compete at Beta Alpha Psi’s international meeting in Florida in August.