The Power of Student-Led Initiatives

How the PSU Chapter of Beta Alpha Psi Is Reimagining Leadership and Collaboration

By Jacob Ashley

From left to right: Student Romita Sekar, President of Beta Alpha Psi’s board Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, and student Erik Refsland.

The Portland State University (PSU) chapter of Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), an international honor organization for financial information students and professionals, achieved a third-place finish at the BAP Mid-Year Meeting regional competition. Their initiative highlighted the importance of inclusive leadership through accessible resources, targeted events, and equitable mentorship opportunities for students. The team was led by Romita Sekar, BAP’s VP of Competitions, in partnership with Erik Refsland and Jessica Kalrissian, BAP’s Executive VP and VP of Programs.

Unlike previous years of regional competitions, this year, chapters were hosted from the Pacific Northwest as well as nationwide. Erik said, “It was quite a lot of people we were competing against, and our category was ‘Reimagining Leadership and Collaboration,’ specifically highlighting the inclusion of underrepresented students.” He continued, “People of color, disabled people, veterans, all these groups that often have to work a little harder to be seen. That was our focus.”

Their presentation focused on building mentorship programs, facilitating organizational partnerships, organizing career workshops for underrepresented accounting students, and highlighting the School of Business (SB) event, Empowering Leaders of Color in Business. Romita mentioned, “We identified a significant gap in resource access for underrepresented and marginalized accounting students. We then did research and saw a lot of bias and inequitable treatment. Not only that but there was a lack of mentorship opportunities.” She added, “The idea was to provide everyone with greater access. Also, to encourage new candidates into our organization, and for everyone to take advantage of all available leadership opportunities.”

In 2022, the PSU BAP team earned first place in regionals and third in nationals, focusing on creating data analytics events for underrepresented students. “Of course, we wanted to finish in the top two this year, but the whole idea behind this project was ensuring everyone was able to tell their story, which was the first thing that happened in our timeline of events.” Romita continued, “It stands a testament to many students, whether in BAP or not. It will be a continued legacy through experiencing diverse voices, which is incredibly important to us.”

Reflecting on his time with this initiative, Erik breaks down his experience: “I’ve always been about helping others and helping them grow because I’ve had so many people mentor me throughout my life. I want to be able to give back, to make a mark of some kind. I want to leave something that will be here when I’m gone and positively affect the future.” 

Eight new BAP candidates have been teamed with chapter members during the winter term, while projections show 12 new candidates for spring, expanding on the fall 2022 roster of only 10. Moving forward, Erik and Romita will continue to implement the plan from this initiative, ensuring equitable access to student and career resources at PSU and beyond.

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