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Preparing for success: Q&A with Chattanooga State accounting scholar Joshua Clay

“I’ve always aspired to run a business, but that’s no easy task,” says Joshua Clay, a freshman accounting major at Chattanooga State Community College. However, with a little help from the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation, he is well on his way to achieving his academic and career goals.

In 2016, the BlueCross Foundation established an endowed scholarship with Chattanooga State  to help promote diversity in the field of accounting.

The scholarship is funded by the foundation and awards up to $3,000 annually to between 3 and 6 accounting students each year.

“Historically, the percentage of minority candidates in the accounting field is very small nationwide, and it is especially low in Tennessee,” says Dennis Culver, vice president of performance improvement at BlueCross and one of the scholarship’s sponsors. “Our scholarship is designed to help increase this talent pipeline by encouraging more minority students to become interested in the field of accounting — and to foster an interest in BlueCross as a future employer.”

Honoring the scholars

Earlier this year, representatives from BlueCross, including vice president of corporate workforce diversity and scholarship supporter, Ron Harris, visited the campus of Chattanooga State for a recognition event honoring the six 2022-2023 minority accounting scholars.

David Criswell, VP treasurer and chief risk officer at BlueCross, attended the event and shared some remarks with the recipients, offering words of advice and encouragement as they continue their education.

“Almost 16 years ago, I was an accounting student just like you,” he told the recipients. “I can tell you accounting is a career path that will never disappoint in terms of the variety of offerings you can pursue.”

Following the event, we spoke to Joshua about accounting, why it interests him and how the BlueCross scholarship is helping him achieve his dreams.

Joshua with Emily Reynolds, Tennessee Board of Regents vice chair and BlueCross board chair, on a recent visit to Chattanooga State

What do you like about accounting?

I’m a logical person – that’s my personality. Accounting has enough probability that it doesn’t get boring, but enough logic that it’s still concrete. I like that balance; it keeps it interesting, and I like that it allows me to use my strengths. 

What do you enjoy most about the accounting program at Chattanooga State?

I appreciate the business experience all of the professors have. They practice what they preach, and it’s cool getting to hear their experiences and getting to apply that to the decisions I make for my future. It makes a real difference when you’re learning from people who are passionate about the field and what they do.

How will the BlueCross accounting scholarship help you with your educational goals?

I come from a middle-class household, so any money you can get to help with your education is a big deal. It’s important to have a scholarship like this because it incentivizes people to explore the major and a career path in accounting, both of which can be challenging. It also recognizes people for the work they put in and their commitment to their education.

What did it mean to hear from a leader like David Criswell?

I had the opportunity to chat with him after the event, and he talked about his experience and how BlueCross has helped him throughout his career. He offered some information about internships and said he was willing to help me broaden my knowledge and gain some experience in the field. That really meant a lot.

What do you hope to do after graduating from Chattanooga State?

After graduation, I hope to transfer to a four-year college and get my bachelor’s degree, then earn my certified public accountant (CPA) designation. After a few years of CPA work, I’d like to become an enrolled agent specializing in taxation.

The Chattanooga State diversity in accounting scholarship is just one way the BlueCross Foundation provides support to Tennessee’s promising students. Each year, it also awards six Power of We Scholarships to promote inclusion in the health care field. It has also established endowed scholarships with Tennessee Technological University and Belmont University, as well as a $50,000 program to support health information management students at Chattanooga State.

About Amanda Haskew, Senior Communications Specialist

A photo of the authorAmanda joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2017. Born and raised in Chattanooga, she has a decade of experience in writing for print and the web, as well as digital marketing.

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