Outstanding Graduating Senior Fuses CIS, Accounting and Mathematics

November 14, 2012

It’s not every day that you meet a graduating college student who looks forward to graduation so he can go back and reread portions of his text books. That kind of student has a rare combination of steadfast focus and passion.

Meet that student, Steven Laybourne, who was recently named the Fall 2012 Outstanding Graduating Senior by the department of information systems. He will graduate this December with a double major in accountancy and computer information systems (CIS) and a minor in mathematics.

According to Michael Goul, chairman of the information systems department, “Steven managed his studies to gain deeper knowledge in three different fields of study. He clearly appreciates the importance of transcending disciplinary limitations as he developed this personal approach to achieving intellectual fusion.”

For Steven, it’s just who he is. “My majors and minors are indicative of who I am,” says Laybourne. “I consider myself a logically minded, organized individual. And I’m passionate about what I study.”

Building puzzles

“One of my favorite things as a kid was Legos,” says Steven. “The challenge was to build something from nothing. One of the things that I really enjoyed about CIS was the database courses because, to me, it’s like building a puzzle. I enjoyed that and found it very interesting.”

Laybourne considered going into engineering, but was drawn to viewing challenges from the business perspective. “I really enjoy learning about how businesses operate,” says Laybourne. “I had an internship with an entrepreneurial firm and had the opportunity to look into how companies work. I see business as a broader spectrum rather than a narrow organization. What interests me is understanding how an organization operates.”

Laybourne grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona and was interested in ASU almost exclusively. “I chose ASU because of the business school,” says Laybourne. “I find accounting and CIS to be two extremely important business degrees because I think that, once you understand them, you can understand an entire company. And so ASU made a lot of sense because of its fantastic accounting and CIS departments. Both of the programs are just spectacular and, as a result, I have absolutely enjoyed my time at ASU.”

Road testing his skills

Laybourne is active in Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting, CIS and finance fraternity. He has held various leadership positions and is currently the managerial information systems coordinator for the club.

“This past summer, I sat down with two executive members of the club to discuss a solution that would seamlessly capture data for student events,” says Laybourne. Previously, the fraternity was using Google Docs as a reservation system and was experiencing issues when people would RSVP for an event and the data would be captured up to six times. “This situation made it difficult to determine the number of attendees to any particular event. So I designed a database and then built a Web site that would integrate with the database and eliminate duplicate RSVPs.”

How does a double major have time to develop such a system? For Laybourne, it’s just what he loves to do.

“I went to a wedding in Steamboat Springs, Colorado this summer. My family and I drove from Salt Lake City to the wedding – about a six-hour drive - so I took the time in the back of the car creating a mock-up for the database and Web pages. To me, it was really cool using what I had learned in class to create a functional database and Web site that worked together to produce an improved, useful product. At one point, I took a step back and thought ‘I didn’t have to look up how to do something. I just did it.’ To me that is absolutely cool. It was a culmination of my entire schooling as a CIS major and it just shows the great faculty and teaching in this program.”

What’s next?

“I love Arizona,” says Laybourne. “It’s obviously hot in the summer, but in how many states can you drive an hour and be in mountains with forests? And then you can go to Mexico or California if you want to go to the beach – just geographically I think Arizona is phenomenal.”

“Once I graduate in December, I hope to get an internship in the spring or summer and then prepare for the CPA exam,” says Laybourne. “I’m taking more of an accounting perspective. I’m going to enter a master’s of accountancy program in the fall of 2013. At that point, I’m hoping to get into public accounting.”

“Even though I’m focused on going into accounting, and even though public accounting doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with CIS, top accounting executives are constantly saying that they are interested in graduates with a CIS/accounting double major,” he explained. “The reason is that accounting is important, but, at the end of the day, you obtain information about organizations through the information system. Many aspects of accounting revolve around computer information systems. Having an understanding of that sets you apart.”

Laybourne’s thesis focused on fraud prevention and he holds that out as a possible career interest as well. “In addition to the CPA, I’m looking to become a certified forensics examiner,” he says. “I believe that forensics is an up and coming industry. Even if you don’t go into forensics, having this knowledge will be important if you ever create a business yourself, it is one of these things that I think will only be growing in importance. So having that knowledge will be valuable regardless of which route I end up taking.”

Michael Goul agrees. “I am very pleased to see a bright, promising scholar like Steven headed in this direction,” says Goul. “His viewpoint combines math, information systems and accountancy, so he has a unique perspective that bridges complex cryptography, cyber-based defense accounting controls, managing risks and exposure inherent to transaction management in computer systems, etc.”

With his passion, intellect, and focus, no matter the path, Laybourne’s will be an exciting journey to watch.

“I am so humbled and honored to receive this recognition,” says Laybourne on being named the outstanding graduating senior. “I wasn’t even thinking about it. I just have enjoyed my time at ASU so much. I love it here.”