When asked what words best describe the professional accounting community, Lawrence Green CPA, CMA, replied: “ethical, knowledgeable, committed, diverse, and forward-thinking.”
Indeed, these words encompass the dedication that accounting professionals apply to their work, clients, employers, and the public; however, they also apply to the network of volunteers working behind the scenes of the profession to help members—and future members—uphold these career-defining terms.
CPA Assist and the CPA Education Foundation are just two of the many groups dedicated to making positive impacts on the profession. Both organizations are run by a Board of Governors composed of volunteer CPAs from various professional backgrounds.
CPA Assist helps Alberta professional accountants and candidates, as well their immediate families, address issues of mental health, addictive behaviours, substance abuse, nutrition, and other personal or professional issues. This service is free and confidential, and supported by both professional counselling services and peer support.
Lawrence Green may be relatively new to the CPA Assist Board of Governors—he was appointed in June of 2015—but with over 30 years of experience in the health field, he brings a deep understanding for the state of mental health awareness in Alberta. Presently the Vice President of Corporate Services and CFO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, his work life nicely complements CPA Assist’s efforts to help and support members. “In my current role with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, I have assisted with and have been exposed to a wide variety of research and demonstration projects dealing with various aspects of mental health best practices research,” Lawrence says. “Within our own organization we have enacted a wide variety of policies and practices that help create a healthy mental health workplace.”
Applying his aptitude for financial information and problem solving to helping others was an easy choice for this Ontario-born accountant whose father spent many years volunteering for the St. John’s Ambulance organization. Lured by his father’s altruism, Lawrence quickly found colleagues with the same passion for health care: “the people that make up the health care organizations are caring, bright and committed to the goals and services each organization provides to the public,” he notes. Using his accounting designation to help manage and support these kinds of organizations speaks of Lawrence’s paternal influence – the apple did not fall far from the tree.
Mental health wellness is an important and ongoing project; however, as Lawrence acknowledges, it is still a relatively new concept. Prior to joining the Mental Health Commission of Canada in 2011, he had noted the lack of awareness and proactive discourse surrounding mental health by both the public and the government. This stigma inspired Lawrence to accept his current position: “The opportunity to join an organization at a senior management level and actively help establish a Canadian Mental Health Strategy provided the impetus for this career choice,” he admits.
Like Lawrence, Joanne Belliveau CPA, CA, CGA joined the CPA Education Foundation out of an interest born from her work in accounting education. Now an instructor at NAIT teaching third and fourth year auditing, advanced auditing, and accounting theory courses, Joanne worked in public practice and industry for many years before making the switch to education. She attributes her love of understanding and helping people – Joanne also has a BA in Psychology – to influencing her career change: “I wanted to help and mentor students. [Education provided] a great opportunity that allowed me to stay connected to accounting while giving me the intrinsic rewards that go along with teaching and mentoring.” By incorporating her real-world corporate experiences to the classroom, Joanne has successfully found her niche and has been an accounting instructor for over seven years.
“Students do benefit from scholarships that the Foundation offers, but there are other projects that the Foundation has incubated to enhance student success. I also see first-hand how the funding the Foundation provides helps post-secondary institutions to deliver quality programs.” —Joanne Belliveau CPA, CA, CGA
While contemplating the pursuit of further education in business and entering her career in academia, Joanne was first introduced to the Foundation by a member of the Board of Governors. At the time, she knew very little about the Foundation in the accounting community but, after learning about the scholarships, funding, grants, and projects offered to students, post-secondary institutions, and accounting education, Joanne knew its mission aligned with her own approach to education: “I was amazed by the opportunity to be involved with such a great organization,” Joanne reflects, “I liked how they supported education in accounting and at various different levels, from operational funding, to scholarships and PhD support.”
She was appointed to the Board in April 2009 and assumed the role of Chair in September 2015. As the only accounting educator currently on the Board of Governors, Joanne relies on her teaching experiences and day-to-day interactions with students and colleagues to bring a unique perspective. “I understand the various needs of the student and it isn’t just money,” she reports. “Students do benefit from scholarships that the Foundation offers, but there are other projects that the Foundation has incubated to enhance student success. I also see first-hand how the funding the Foundation provides helps post-secondary institutions to deliver quality programs.”
The CPA Education Foundation and CPA Assist may address different issues; however, they are united in their efforts to promoting the success of members, future-members, and the profession. As Lawrence emphasizes, “the provision of a wellness program such as CPA Assist speaks to the accounting community’s commitment to both professional and healthy practitioners.” Indeed, both the Foundation and the CPA Assist are creating communities amongst professional accountants to help each other, elevate the profession, and work towards common goals. This desire to build a strong network is echoed in Joanne’s sentiments about the CPA Education Foundation: “The Foundation reminds those who are planning to pursue a designation that there are other accountants out there who want to help support them in their journey to their designation.”
Thanks to the work of innovative individuals like Lawrence and Joanne, being a CPA not only provides endless opportunities for career building and advancement, but also invites members into an unparalleled professional community that continues to grow and sustain itself, in large part due to the efforts of people who truly care about the cause.
This article appeared in the Fall Issue of Dividends, CPA Alberta’s magazine for members.