Public Relations

Daily Pioneer News

Friday, February 26, 2010

UWP finance team wins national competition, visits White House

PLATTEVILLE- The finance team of University of Wisconsin-Platteville students who traveled to Washington, D.C., on Feb. 16 came home national champions on Feb. 19. After four days in our nation's capitol, a visit to the White House and a competition against the other student team from the of North Carolina State University, Kevin Opgenorth, Alisa Antonelli, Travis Houg and Brock Walker won the 2009-2010 Government Finance Case Challenge.

In November 2009, the UWP team competed against 30 other teams from across the nation to determine who would go on to the finals in D.C. The team worked under the direct supervision of Sharif Gias, UWP faculty advisor and assistant professor of finance. Other business schools that UWP competed against included Alabama State University, Georgia State University, Purdue University, Tennessee State University, University of Houston, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Indiana University and Northern Illinois University.

"We were all a little nervous but still confident going into the competition because we had lots of help and support from people on campus," said Gias. "When my team was called to the stage at the award ceremony, I was very proud to see them appreciated by the 700 people in attendance. I truly feel it was our team mentality and relationship together that made us successful. It is these relationships between faculty and students that makes our university so great and provides opportunities for students."

Opgenorth of West Bend; Antonelli of Dubuque, Iowa; Walker of Mineral Point; and Houg of New London used a citizen-centric reporting model to simplify the 50-page financial report of a fictitious U.S. city into four pages, while providing the required information citizens would want to know. The citizen-centric report, which can be used at any level of government, contains information about a government's goals, key performance indicators, financial information including revenue and expenses, and challenges to be faced in the future.

The reporting model is designed to bring accountability and transparency to government reporting, two key components President Barack Obama relied on during his campaign for the presidency.

"My team won the nation-level competition because they truly believe that there is a need for government accountability and transparency, especially with the current economic situation," said Gias. "As citizens, we want to see transparency in government environment, which in turn will reflect a greater accountability."

Gias continued, adding that by winning the competition, UWP was able to make a positive change by continuing action and initiative and echoed Obama, stating, "change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the ones we seek."

After learning that the team was chosen to present their case in D.C., Walker attempted to set up a brief meeting with Obama for the group by writing a letter. "We received a response in which our team was invited to lunch at the White House. Although it was unlikely that we would be able to meet the President due to his busy schedule, I was very excited that the efforts of writing my letter paid off. It was truly an amazing experience that we will always remember."

While the team didn't get to meet with the President, they were able to meet with Jon Carson, Chief of Staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and 1998 UWP alumnus. Carson plans to visit UWP in April.

Also during their limited free time, they toured the U.S. Capitol, including some congressional offices, the U.S. Supreme Court, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.

"Our team put in 100 percent and sacrificed a lot for this competition. If one of us had not been there, I don't think we would have had the combination it took to win. The team from UNC was very gracious; they shook our hands and congratulated us," said Antonelli.

According to Gias, the next step for the team is to present the citizen-centric reporting model to Platteville in an effort to make city government financial reporting more available to citizens.

Gias and his team would like to extend a special thank you to Chancellor Carol Sue Butts, Provost Duane Ford, Special Assistant to the Chancellor Barb Daus, professors Todd Carothers, Donna Perkins, Roxane Gunser, Louis Nzegwu, Steve Kleisath, Syed Moiz, Wendy Brooke, as well as Jon Carson, Kristin Avery, Mike Shibuya, Ian Clark, Danielle Nicks, and the entire faculty, staff, and student body for the continued support throughout this entire experience.

Gias also conveys his special regards to UWP students includes Ben Barlow, Aaron Waller, Andrew Alderman, Kinsey Yaddof, Brian Snyder, Katie Shanahan, Katie Schroeder, Zach Eichsteadt, Rachel Dilley, Cordon Sroka, Drew DiVall, Jennifer Ahrens, Ryan Callender, Nick Faber.

Contact: Sharif Gias, assistant professor, UWP Department of Business and Accounting, (608) 342-6109, Written by: Ian Clark, UWP Office of Public Relations, (608) 342-1194,

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