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Andrea Jaffe, who is earning her master's degree this month, is seen inside Academic Building A. Jaffe has spent the year working as a graduate assistant in the University’s Office of Internal Audit.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Graduate student makes a difference behind the scenes
May 10, 2011Tweet
It was inevitable that Andrea Jaffe would attend Binghamton University. The daughter of parents who met at Binghamton in the mid-‘70s, Jaffe also has two older sisters who graduated from Binghamton.
“Of my sisters, when I was younger I always wanted to go here, to be like my parents,” she said. “It’s a really good school and I just always wanted to come. I literally got my early action decision and put my deposit in the next day. I didn’t even want to apply to any other schools.”
So even though it seemed “a given” that she would attend Binghamton, what she would accomplish here was an unknown. Now, after earning her bachelor’s degree a year ago and as she graduates with her master’s degree, she has accomplished plenty.
Just ask those she has worked with who are standing in line to be included in this profile.
Jaffe, who is coordinator of the tour guides for Undergraduate Admissions, has also worked for the past year as a graduate assistant in the University’s Office of Internal Audit. The experience has been more than she, or anyone else, could have predicted.
It started last year, when the University’s internal auditor, S. Mark Hall, selected Jaffe from the cohort of School of Management graduate students he interviewed to work in his office for the 2010-2011 academic year. It ends this semester, after Jaffe maintained confidentiality while helping to investigate fraud charges that had an international scope and required her to work closely with New York State University Police, the Broome County district attorney’s office and several offices on campus.
This, even as she worked on the P-card audit and with Undergraduate Admissions, and completed her coursework.
“She’s a very professional person who can work under time pressures and doesn’t get shook,” Hall said. She knows how to keep pressure in line and gets things done right. She’s a perfectionist who is extremely hard working and loves to learn.
“The way she goes beyond the call of duty – you just don’t expect someone her age to do so much,” he said.
Jaffe also impressed Interim Chief of Police Timothy Faughnan.
“Without naming the case in particular that involved a lot of investigative work, Andrea actually at one point had a map hanging on the wall to track the individual’s movements,” he said. “She really dug into this case and did a tremendous amount of work to help us develop the audit trail and uncover the fraud. She showed a great deal of diligence and attention to detail and it resulted in a successful audit that helped us in our criminal case.
“I think she was in a pretty unique situation for a student intern and she did it well,” Faughnan added. “I would give her a glowing reference because of how hard she worked, what a great job she did. She was meticulous and quick to grasp the investigative side of things and understood the necessity for detail because we could be going into a courtroom. And that’s not an easy thing to do – especially with a smile on her face the entire time.”
Jaffe sat in on high-level meetings and came to the table as an equal partner, not as a student, but as a professional accountant who was on the case. Vice President for Administration James Van Voorst was in some of those sessions.
“I’ve been in meetings with her and her professionalism for her age is just outstanding,” Van Voorst said. ”We’ve been lucky to have very good people come through Mark’s office, but she is certainly one of the top I’ve ever seen. Andrea stepped up to every challenge and was able to meet Mark’s needs throughout the year.”
Jaffe, who tends to be realistic about things, said it helps to not freak out when things don’t go as planned, because they almost always don’t. “I’ve learned a lot this year. When I started it was really overwhelming and I thought, ‘I’m just going to go with it and see how my multitasking skills are,’” she said.
“My dad is an accountant, but I never wanted to do that,” she said. “For most of middle and high school, I wanted to go to law school. Columbia was my dream.”
But her path has changed since attending Binghamton as an undergraduate in the School of Management, and as she has pursued her master’s in accounting. She will begin a job with Ernst & Young in Chicago in September, in their audit assurance line. Jaffe interned with the firm in New York City following her junior year at Binghamton, and the position was offered to her then.
Because of the changes in accounting and CPA requirements, Jaffe said Ernst & Young allowed interns in her class year to choose when they would intern. “They gave me a choice, so I chose interning after my junior year and they wrote my job offer for the year after I finished if I did a master’s,” she said. “And I wanted to be on par with the people I’m starting with.”
Jaffe is certainly on par, if not ahead of the game. She spent part of the summer between her undergraduate and graduate programs studying for, and passing, two of the CPA licensing exams. She completed the other two before the end of 2010 and now, because she’s completed her master’s, has only a one-year work experience requirement left complete requirements for her CPA license.
“I’m very competitive, but not in sports, more intellectually than anything else,” she said. “I like to know I’m doing well. I’m intrinsically motivated and want to know I’m doing as well as I can.”
She also knows her limits, getting involved in volunteer efforts, but focusing on just a few at a time rather than spreading herself too thin. “I chose to get really involved in a few things rather than to do everything,” she said. “For example, I’m a founder of a business fraternity. I like to pick three or four things and stick with it. It really is time management. I’m a big scheduler and like to know exactly what I’m doing all the time – and I spend a lot of time on the weekends in the library!
“The first thing I got really involved in on campus was Relay for Life,” she said.” I was a chair of a committee and did all sorts of things, recruited volunteers, banking, registration, and then did ceremonies and all different things.”
Then admissions came calling. “I applied in the second semester of my sophomore year to be a tour guide for the fall of junior year and got hired,” she said. “I’m convinced it’s because they love legacies and I was really, really excited, so it was the ideal job for me.”
After she finished training, she applied for a supervisor position, but was offered the coordinator post instead – and accepted it.
“The coordinator doesn’t tour,” she said. “It’s a lot of miscellaneous roles and I work a lot with Joe Tiesi, the assistant director for campus visits. We meet to give more information to the tour guides and we plan open houses and super visit days. I help any of the supervisors when they need it and oversee all that happens and jump in where needed.”
Tiesi said Jaffe was so well-spoken, polished and professional that she was a shoo-in for the coordinator role. “She came to me after just one year as a tour guide and now she supervises 85 tour guides,” he said. “That’s her talent level. She’s outstanding. The students respect her and she motivates them and trains them well.
“She also blends in with the admissions staff in an easy way,” Tiesi added. “She’s the perfect bridge, connecting our students, our guests and our staff.”
Jaffe admits to being a conflict avoider, but said the tour guide coordinator position is great experience in managing and management.
“It’s a lot of working on a team and making sure everything gets done,” she said.
She’s also a self-proclaimed nerd. “I I think I am,” she said. “I never skipped class. School work never bothered me. I always liked to learn. It just fits in.”
And as she begins her professional career, she has a depth of experience many her age would not. “I feel I have the experience in working on audits,” she said, “and I like the completion and writing a report and understanding the kinds of questions I need to be asking. My work in the Office of Internal Audit was so different from what I did as an internship, where I worked for several weeks on a year-long audit so only saw a snapshot of it. It would have taken a full year to really understand it.
“Here, having only two people in the office, I saw everything and got to contribute in a way that most don’t really get to in public accounting for a few years,” she said. “And Mark really values your opinion. For him to ask my opinion and consider it was really impressive.”
One benefit from working in a small office or on a team is everyone bounces ideas off of each other, Jaffe said.
“When you leave Binghamton University, you leave knowing you can’t do anything alone,” she said. “Functioning as a team is so important to your success and so is understanding that one person can’t do it all. You have to be able to count on others and they can count on you. It’s a good feeling knowing you don’t have to do anything alone.”