Dean Dorton’s inaugural IGNITE Leadership Conference, held on July 19-20, 2018, encompassed a slew of interactive activities for 25 college students who joined together in Lexington, Kentucky for two packed days of hands-on accounting education.


The conference kicked off with an opening by Mike Shepherd, Director of Tax Services, followed by a series of introductory games and a tour of our Lexington office.

Ryan Walker, Associate Director of Assurance Services, introduced to the students the various services the firm’s assurance team provides. He then led an audit case study, in which the students performed a mock inventory observation for a fictitious client. In this hands-on exercise, students conducted a real-world activity—one that they will likely provide to clients in the future.

Immediately after the audit case study, four of our team members—Katie Escudero and Joey George, both Specialists in Tax Services, and Payton Miller and Nick Reynolds, both Supervisors in Assurance Services—participated with the students in a Q&A roundtable. Discussion topics ranged from transitioning to a full-time career after college, to the demands of a career in public accounting. Dean Dorton was a discussion topic as well, as students wanted to learn what has made the firm a Best Place to Work in Kentucky for 14 consecutive years—one of only three companies  to have made the list each year of the program’s existence.

Mike Shepherd kicked off the afternoon with a tax case study, sharing with students the tax services we provide to clients, from compliance to strategic consulting. The tax case study wrapped up with an exclusive tour of City Center, a two-acre mixed use development under construction in the heart of downtown Lexington. Hard hats on and eager to learn about City Center, the IGNITE participants toured multiple floors of the development’s office space and hotel space, and walked through the completed 700-vehicle underground parking garage (the first and only underground parking garage in Lexington).

Day one ended with a fun outing at the Lexington Legends minor league baseball game, which happened to fall on the stadium’s 80s Night. The IGNITE participants and Dean Dorton team members dressed in festive 80s garb, cheering on the Legends as they scored a victory against the West Virginia Power.


David Bundy, President and CEO, kicked off the second day with a welcome and overview of the firm. IGNITE participants then learned valuable CPA exam tips and tricks from two team members who recently studied for and passed the four-part exam: Madison Embry, Specialist in Assurance Services, and Nick Lawson, Specialist in Tax Services.

The students learned about Dean Dorton’s internship program and Accounting and Business Compliance Services (ABS) positions, which are reserved for new accounting graduates. In a hands-on activity led by Abby Kirk, Supervisor of Tax Services, and Estelle Withrow, Associate in ABS, students experienced the opportunities which starting an accounting career in our ABS program can bring.

The morning concluded with a multi-faceted consulting case study. In Part I of this case study, Jason Miller, Director of Business Consulting Services, illustrated the wide array of consulting services we provide to clients. Then, Nick Lynch, Associate Director of Business Consulting Services, discussed forensic accounting, providing examples of past fraud cases and the importance of the firm’s forensic accounting service.

The IGNITE participants enjoyed lunch with a few partners of the firm. In this one-on-one setting, the students had the unique opportunity to learn more about the partners and their careers in various firm services.

After lunch, Elizabeth Woodward, Director of Forensic Accounting and Litigation Support, and Nick Lawson, Specialist in Tax Services, led Part II of the consulting case study with a hands-on forensic accounting activity. The students conducted an inventory observation similar to that on day one, but this time, identified where fraudulent activity occurred with the fictitious client’s inventory. The case study simulated real-life interactions between clients and forensic accountants, highlighting some of the challenges faced while in the field.

IGNITE 2018 wrapped up with a Q&A session with David Bundy, covering topics such as the future of the accounting profession, the future of Dean Dorton, and the firm as a whole. As David’s session concluded, the students received personalized commemorative Louisville slugger bats as a parting gift.

Twenty-five students walked away from this inaugural leadership program with information about the firm, the ability to practice hands-on accounting tasks, and had some fun while meeting our team members. As IGNITE participants start their semester, we are encouraged by the future of the accounting profession after meeting and getting to know these current—and future—leaders.

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