Priming the Pump

Boise State’s endowed scholarship ‘bridge’ program helped this professor honor his parents while supporting accountancy students

The podcast is called “Journeys of Accountancy,” and it’s all about the real day-to-day lives of accountants. Its co-host, Mark Cowan, Boise State professor and director of the Master of Science in Accountancy-Taxation programs, co-created it to show that accountants do more than add columns of numbers. 

“We’ve had stories of people going out to count the french fries at Simplot, having to go onto the factory floor and observe the inventory,” Cowan said about guests on the podcast. “We’ve had alumni who’ve told us their clients are these tech companies that are doing things that have never been done before and that they had to figure out how to account for them. We’ve had local CPAs explain how they’ve helped grieving families settle estates — reducing their stress at a difficult time. And we’ve heard time and again the importance of building relationships with others.” 

Boise State instructors now use “Journeys of Accountancy” as a teaching tool and an introduction to the discipline. Cowan hopes it will encourage more students to enter “the pipeline” and join the field. He knows more students will choose accountancy if he shows it can be an accessible, exciting and satisfying career. That’s part of why he recently chose to take advantage of Boise State’s Scholarship Endowment Bridge program to put more money into a scholarship he created for accounting students a decade ago: the Cowan Family Scholarship.

 

“With the new capital campaign, Unbridled, I was able to give a higher scholarship number out there to the student immediately, and that was attractive. It was time to recommit to the scholarship that I started a decade ago.” – Boise State Professor Mark Cowan

Cowan’s parents did not go to college. His father worked in a manufacturing plant and his mother worked secretarial jobs. But it was important to them that their son receive higher education, and his father in particular encouraged his son’s interest in accountancy, which offered more opportunities for professional advancement and a higher salary. When he learned about a matching scholarship program in 2013, Cowan honored his mother and father by establishing one in their name. 

In November of 2023, Boise State launched Unbridled: The Campaign for Boise State, a pillar supporting of endowed scholarships. Endowed scholarships are a cornerstone of access to higher education, and catalysts for student success. Part of Unbridled is the Boise State’s Scholarship Endowment Bridge program, which enables the university to begin awarding them to students immediately and allowing donors to see the impact of their giving sooner. 

Having used a similar program to establish his scholarship in the past, Cowan took action, giving more money to the Cowan Family Scholarship. 

“With the new capital campaign, Unbridled, I was able to give a higher scholarship number out there to the student immediately, and that was attractive. It was time to recommit to the scholarship that I started a decade ago,” he said.

Scholarships are just one tool for attracting and retaining students, especially in a field like accountancy, a rigorous discipline that requires lengthy study. Cowan said sharing the possibilities of his area of study makes it more attractive, and making it easier for students to pursue means more graduates will enter the workforce with those skills.

“I see the impact,” Cowan said. “It’s helping someone finance their education. Anything we can do to reduce and remove barriers — and in accounting in particular — is worth it. We have the pipeline problem in part because accounting is a hard subject. The more we can encourage and support students, the better off those students–and the accounting profession will be.”