The term community service might not conjure up images of accounting, but at Richmond, accounting is among the many disciplines in which students use their knowledge to help others—bringing together the University’s strengths of experiential learning and community engagement.

The Bonner Center for Civic Engagement awarded accounting major Sherry Sun, ’11, from Sichuan Province, China, a Burhans Civic Fellowship to work in the accounting department of Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC) in Richmond during summer 2009. Dr. Valaria Vendrzyk, associate professor of accounting, served as Sun’s faculty mentor, helping her connect her academic learning to her internship through reading and writing assignments.

CCC provides a broad spectrum of social services to Virginia residents, including food and rent assistance, family counseling, case management for individuals with HIV/AIDS, therapeutic foster care, and many more. Sun supported CCC outreach efforts by putting her accounting skills to work in the back office.

She tackled account analysis, invoicing and check writing, accounts-receivable payment entry, third-party billing, and payroll. Her supervisors gave her increasingly complicated tasks and were especially thrilled with a template she designed to record the percentage of CCC funding dedicated to staff salaries.

“Sherry is a gifted problem solver,” said CCC chief financial officer Richard Ciofani. “She is extremely inquisitive and wants to understand the whole work-flow process. She easily applies what she has learned in the classroom to her work in the CCC accounting department.”

Sun was equally as enthusiastic about her internship with CCC, especially in her newfound knowledge of nonprofit accounting, which differs somewhat from the for-profit accounting typically studied in the classroom. “The experience made me consider working on the financial management staff of a not-for-profit organization as a career option in the future,” she said.