Accounting students visit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)


Prior to his teaching career, Bret Johnson, an associate professor of accounting at the Costello College of Business at George Mason University, was a staff accountant at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

Accounting students and faculty
Accounting students and faculty

“I went back as an academic fellow, so I was there from 2020 to 2021, and part of my responsibility was arranging these student visits for other universities to come,” he says. Johnson knows the current SEC academic fellow Ally Zimmerman, an assistant professor of accounting at Florida State University’s College of Business. She coordinated the visit for Costello College of Business students to visit the SEC headquarters on the afternoon of Wednesday, February 28. An independent agency of the United States federal government, the SEC was established following the Wall Street Crash of 1929 to protect investors and enforce the law against market manipulation.

Johnson worked with Ethan Kinory, an instructional assistant professor of accounting at the Costello College of Business, to assemble a group of students they could bring on the visit. Kinory is the faculty advisor to Mason’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, an international honor organization for financial information students and professionals. The chapter has 41 total students, 29 of whom are accounting majors, and it runs approximately 12 events per semester. In addition to Beta Alpha Psi students, other attendees in the group included students from the accounting honors program and the master of science in accounting program. “It’s a huge benefit of us being here in the backyard of Washington, D.C., to have these types of opportunities,” says Johnson. “We have a great relationship with the people there, and that’s really helpful to foster these types of opportunities in the future.”

The Costello College of Business group arrived at SEC headquarters by 1:30 p.m. and was greeted by Ally Zimmerman in the lobby. From there, the afternoon was broken into segments running approximately half an hour each until the agenda concluded at 5:00 p.m. Interactive presentations were given by representatives from the office of the chief accountant, division of investment management, division of enforcement, division of corporation finance, and division of examinations.

The students’ trip to the headquarters showed them how they could apply what they have learned in the classrooms as future professionals, whether it be at the SEC or elsewhere. “This excursion provided an invaluable opportunity for students to gain insight into the SEC's role and organizational structure,” says Maya Didier, a master’s in accounting student and vice president of Beta Alpha Psi. "Visiting the SEC provided me with a valuable opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge I gained from textbooks into a real-life experience from talking to individuals who work for the SEC to visiting the building where all the work happens,” says Nathaly Pablo, a master’s in accounting student. “It was a great experience to broaden my understanding and perspective of the accounting profession."

For the 20 students who attended, it was a worthwhile and potentially career-altering event. “A lot of my students who attended told me that they hadn’t previously considered a career in the SEC or any regulatory agency,” says Kinory. “Now that they’re aware, they are considering those types of opportunities and potential employment down the road.” The proximity of George Mason University and the proactive partnership building done by the faculty members open the doors for countless other top-notch experiential learning opportunities for Costello College of Business students.