Alumnus pays it forward through student internship

Mohammed SerdahMohammed Serdah ’07 (Accounting) understands that a working relationship is most likely to produce mutual benefit when it is founded on teamwork and trust. It’s a lesson he learned during a challenging final semester at SUNY New Paltz.

“Among the business students at that time, those of us who were accounting majors were a tight group, especially toward the end,” said Serdah. “During that last semester we all came together at the library and studied late into the night. We stayed until closing for two weeks straight and it was worth it when we all passed. I remember looking for each of them at graduation and saying, ‘We did it together!’”

But Serdah knew that earning high marks alone would not be enough to guarantee him success after graduation. He also learned the value of professional experience when offered an internship by Pascal Guirma ’85 (Business Administration), a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual with an office in New Paltz, who also serves on the College’s Alumni Advisory Council.

“Theory is always key when learning material,” said Serdah. “But life experience and applying it to the real world of business makes a difference, too.”

Today, Serdah has his own accounting firm in New Paltz, Serdah Consultants, and he is paying forward the support he received from Guirma by offering internships to the next generation of School of Business students.

Sarah Alloush ’15 (Accounting) interned with Serdah Consultants during her final semester at New Paltz. Her experience allowed her to develop skills with bookkeeping systems and filing personal and business income tax returns.

“I wanted to get experience in the field I’m pursuing before I graduated,” Alloush said. “I also wanted to make sure this kind of work is the right fit for me. An internship can help solidify your interest in your chosen career.”

Serdah is proud to be able to give back to his alma mater by creating opportunities for students, but just like those late-night study sessions at the library, working together with interns offers real benefits for him as well.

“I have great confidence in the ability of New Paltz students to perform at a high level,” Serdah said. “My interns have helped me question why we do things the way we do, and have helped improve and streamline various processes. Most importantly, they breathe into the business a sort of work ethic only found in young professionals hungry for opportunity and knowledge. I’m proud to say that my interns can leave this company feeling confident in the work they’ve done and ready to work for any CPA office in the country.”

Alloush’s internship experience is helping her develop exactly that kind of confidence. “I’m starting to look for jobs,” she said, “and lots of companies say they prefer one to three years of experience. I’m proud to say I’m going to have that when I graduate.”