The Pandemic’s Impact on Ernst and Young’s Dallas Office

Dallas Ernst and Young employees share their thoughts on how the pandemic has impacted business travel this year.

Ernst & Young (EY), a global leader in consulting, transactions, assurance and tax, has experienced many changes to the way its Dallas office operates since the start of the pandemic this past March. The biggest change: business travel.

Most people (71 percent) have not traveled for business purposes at all in the past 12 months, said the Statista Global Consumer Survey.
Most people (71 percent) have not traveled for business purposes at all in the past 12 months, said the Statista Global Consumer Survey.

The business travel industry is estimated to have lost $518 billion since March, according to Global Business Travel Association.

Staff members typically travel around to different EY offices’ clients to perform inventory counts, but these paying-your-dues-like tasks work more strangely now than before.

Remember how Santa makes his list and checks it twice? Well, the “checking it twice” task is left to EY staff. Inventory counts ensure businesses accurately report their financial reports to consumers each quarter. EY staff act as Santa’s little elves, traveling during the global pandemic to – yes – count things. Aren’t you glad you didn’t major in accounting?

Katharine (Katie) Camp, 22, is one of Santa’s elves. She graduated from Ouachita Baptist University in May 2020 and received her job offer from EY last December. She waited and waited to receive her start date as EY’s newest Assurance Staff, but the pandemic kept pushing it back – from the beginning of 2020 all the way to September.

“Santa” is no other than Cesar Garcia, 26, who started as one of the many other elves in August 2018 but was promoted to Assurance Senior this year.

Meet the stars of the story, EY employees Katie Camp and Cesar Garcia.

Cesar “Santa” Garcia tells his elves – staff members – which clients of which EY locations to pay visits to to conduct inventory counts. Katie the Elf knew inventory counts were part of the job when she received her offer, but once COVID happened, she figured she wasn’t going to be traveling as much as she had expected, she said.

While leisure travel was down 50% year-over-year in Aug., corporate travel was down 88%, said a recent research note from Bank of America analysts.

Way back pre-COVID, Katie was looking forward to attending happy hours with colleagues and laughing it up at elaborate EY holiday parties. “Every college student envisions their first job out of college to be very exciting, and they look forward to becoming friends with coworkers,” Katie said.

But that dream came to a grinding halt once COVID made its way overseas. “I was really looking forward to hanging out with coworkers, but I haven’t been able to do that. I never got to do that; I attended a Baptist school. I haven’t ever even been inside the Dallas EY office or met any of my coworkers.”

Once Katie finally got to start her dream job at her dream company this past September, she was asked about her comfort levels regarding doing anything in-person.

“Since I was in Arkansas for school during EY’s interview season, I was able to be interviewed virtually,” said Camp. “This is the first year EY implemented virtual interviews. I was also a volleyball player, and interviews took place during the season, so it was interesting trying out virtual interviews before the pandemic even hit.” | Photo by Ernst & Young.

“EY asked everyone who was comfortable with in-person inventory counts to partake, depending on family situation and health,” Katie said. Everyone realizes inventory counts aren’t “the most fun tasks, but they still beat staying in your room.” Traveling around the state is her “only way to get experience outside of my house for right now.”

“I like being able to show the company how I’m still willing to put in the work, do what needs to be done and get to know the clients in-person,” she said.

Katie’s first inventory count took her to West Texas. She drove a rental car although she was expecting EY to allow her to fly, but the client’s safety personnel preferred she drove. “I was doing a count for the EY team out of the country in Canada.”

She said how the company is really trying to keep employees as local as possible, avoiding as much contact with others as they could. Staff members could be assigned to work for any EY office from around the globe, but now are being assigned to accounts based on geographical location.

Approaching her third inventory count, Katie is beginning to feel the impact of the pandemic. “During the orientations, employees always mention that they’re following health and safety protocols.”

“Staying in hotels is the strangest. It’s a little lonely,” Katie said. “It makes traveling a little awkward – being around other people for the first time in a long time and not being able to socialize with anyone at the hotel bars or restaurants.”

"The two main clients I oversee are Berkshire Automotive and Top Golf," said Cesar Garcia.
“The two main clients I oversee are Berkshire Automotive and Top Golf,” said Cesar Garcia. | Photo by Berkshire Hathaway Automotive.

While Cesar’s elves are off conducting these tasks, he works from home and overlooks engagements. His job as an Assurance Senior requires him to manage downward and upward, update executives on the status of clients and “double check inventory counts and financial reports clients show to the market,” Garcia said.

“Before the pandemic and my promotion, I was going on inventory counts all over the state. One even took me to Alaska!”

Now, Garcia says, overlooking inventory counts is a little bit of a struggle. However, “it’s proven that, as a firm, you don’t need to be together, working elbow to elbow, constantly to still get close to your teams.”

Garcia used to visit clients’ offices every day, but now he has to jump on calls or schedule virtual meetings to answer client questions.

Bill Gates, Microsoft Co-Founder, has even inserted his opinion on business travel during the Nov. Deal Book online summit hosted by New York Times. “My prediction would be that over 50 percent of business travel and over 30 percent of days in the office will go away,” Gates said.

Now, Cesar tends to sit on Zoom meetings with clients and just sit in silence – cameras on, microphones off – while working “just to act like you’re in the same room.”

“It feels a little distant and hard to not be working with people,” Cesar said. “I can’t meet my new staff, so it’s a little upsetting. We still do the same great work, but it just feels different doing the same things but virtually.”

“I miss traveling to visit with my clients and meet my staff on inventory counts.” The pandemic can’t end soon enough, said the EY Assurance Senior.

Campaign Plan: StreamSum

StreamSum is a start-up technology brand in the live stream analytics industry. As Account Co-Supervisor at Boulevard Consulting, I helped lead the agency’s communications campaign for StreamSum from August-December 2020.

As Account Co-Supervisor, I was in charge of client communication and internal communication with Boulevard Consulting, a student-run Public Relations Agency at Southern Methodist University.

For all assets of this campaign, including the campaign plan and campaign presentation, please view the below files.

SMU Student Employment

Being a student at Southern Methodist University (SMU) is already a full-time job, but thousands of SMU students seek part-time employment throughout their college years.

SMU students work for an abundant of various reasons. Some students work to pay their own tuition while others work to afford rent for off-campus housing (apartments and the like) or on-campus room and board. These payments are hefty and are rising steadily.

“Tuition has recently grown the fastest at public and private non-profit institutions, for which tuition has gone up 65% and 50%, respectively, since 2000,” said USA Facts in a 2019 analysis.

While some students work just to be able to stay in school, others work for extra spending money or to be able to join other student organizations, such as Greek life or other clubs.

The top five reasons why college students work include: to help meet their financial needs, to gain experience in their field, to build up an employment history for use on resumes, to do something productive and for social and personal connections, said an article from The Tab.

“Each student is different, and it is part of our mission to help students balance their academic goals, social activities and part-time employment,” said SMU’s Student Employment Office (SEO).

Considering SMU’s reputation for having an ambitious and extremely busy student population, it isn’t much of a stretch to say that most students work while in school.

In fact, a 2018 US Department of Education report indicates that 43 percent of all full-time undergraduate students and 81 percent of part-time students were employed and worked at least 10 hours a week while enrolled.

We can assume the various reasons why SMU students work throughout their college careers, but where are they working, and how many hours are they working?

Working to Help Meet Financial Needs

Mikayla (Kayla) Hernandez, a senior at SMU majoring in Biochemistry with minors in Spanish, Mathematics and Neuroscience, has held five jobs since starting at SMU nearly four years ago.

Her first job was working at SMU, serving as a writing tutor in the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC). Hernandez worked up to ten hours a week, and her duties consisted of making herself “available either in-person or online to assist other SMU students with different pieces of writing. These pieces could be anything from resumes to class assignments or applications,” said Hernandez.

Kayla Hernandez is a senior SMU student that has worked five jobs since beginning her college career.
“Working and being a full-time student has taught me that the world is extremely fast-paced and relatively unforgiving. In general, it is up to you ,and you only to work hard enough to keep up with the demands of life,” said Hernandez. | Photo by Kayla Hernandez

Being a tutor isn’t her only employment opportunity provided by SMU. For the past two years, Hernandez has worked as a Resident’s Assistant (RA) in McElvaney Commons, one of 11 on-campus Residential Commons. You may consider Residential Commons to be SMU’s form of dormitories, as many other college institutions call them.

“As an RA, I am required to monitor the state of the building and ensure the safety of residents while upholding SMU’s Student Code of Conduct,” she said. “This job has odd hours, as I am expected to perform my duties at all hours of the day, but I would classify this role as a 20-hours-a-week commitment.”

Finally, Hernandez has worked up to 10 hours a week as a lifeguard at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas (JCC), served as a youth swimming instructor, also at the JCC, for up to 10 hours a week, and is currently working as a private tutor for a local high school student for 10 hours a week, of course, while still serving her McElvaney Commons community as an RA.

“I chose to work during college as a way to earn extra spending money for myself and as a way to gain experience for my resume,” Hernandez said. “As someone looking to enter the medical field it is important to show your experience working in teams and with and for other people in a variety of capacities.”

It’s a lot of work being a full-time SMU student with multiple jobs, said Hernandez. Kayla is part of the 11 percent of full-time college students who has worked 10 to 19 hours each week throughout school, according to a 2018 National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) report on college student employment. As of 2018, 53 percent of full-time college students work while in school, said the NCES report.

“On top of my paid work, I also volunteer for organizations on campus, so I often find myself spread very thin. That being said, it is an extremely rewarding experience being able to push myself and earn my own money while I study.”

Working part-time while in school allows college students to have a more structured schedule. In college, there is a lot more “down time,” as some students may only have class for a couple hours on some days. With all that extra time not in class, college students find themselves still wishing to be productive and contribute to their school or community in some manner.

Working to Do Something Productive

Molly Lipsett is a junior at SMU majoring in Engineering Management, Information and Systems (EMIS) as well as Mathematics and is minoring in History.

Molly Lipsett is a junior SMU student working as Equipment Manager for the SMU Mustangs Football team.
“Being a full-time student and working can be stressful, especially if I have to work over 20 hours,” Lipsett said. “Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have enough time to finish everything and sleep but, typically, I really enjoy it.” | Photo by Molly Lipsett.

Lipsett works 15 to 20 hours a week, Monday through Friday, as Equipment Manager for the SMU Mustangs Football team. In her role, she is paid to organize and distribute gear and equipment as well as help set up for football games.

“I chose to work because I wanted to have a more structured schedule. I am more successful when I have structure and less free time,” Lipsett said. “Working and being a student has really taught me time management and how to work on a structured schedule; both have contributed to my success as a student.”

Working to Build Up an Employment History for Use on Resumes

Listen to Abba Yaney as she expresses the lessons she’s learned from working while in college.
Abba Yaney has recently started her first career job, working for the City of Plano as a marketing specialist. | Photo by Sarah Blaze Photography.

Exemplifying another one of the top five reasons why college students choose to work throughout school is Abigail (Abba) Yaney, SMU senior majoring in Public Relations and Strategic Communication and Psychology.

Yaney has held numerous jobs throughout her college career, including nannying for multiple families, working in SMU’s Office of the Provost and other paid internships that weren’t for credit.

SMU students choose to work part-time while enrolled as full-time students for a variety of reasons, but it is becoming more common for students to choose to do so. It is likely that this trend will continue, especially considering the recent pandemic’s financial impact on families and students alike. Two-thirds of college students have said the pandemic has changed their outlook on their financial future, according to CNBC’s Michelle Gao and WalletHub’s 2020 College Student Financial survey. “Most college students are working as they study, but the amount and type of work varies widely. And the forces behind those variances aren’t random,” said Inside Higher Ed.

A Travel Advisor’s Purpose During the Pandemic

Carolyn Harvey, owner of Caribella Travel, speaks on her experience as a travel advisor who found her passion for travel at a young age.

Carolyn Harvey on a cruise in Haiti. | Photo by Carolyn Harvey.

DALLAS – Deciding to open your own travel agency may sound like a large feat, but when your philosophy is “if you want something done right, you do it yourself,” that isn’t the case. It definitely wasn’t the case when Carolyn Harvey, 49, decided to start Caribella Travel a decade ago.

Continue reading “A Travel Advisor’s Purpose During the Pandemic”

Choosing to Travel During a Global Pandemic

A local traveler provides insight into her decision to go on a vacation to Aruba in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DALLAS – A week before her vacation to Aruba in the middle of a global pandemic, Lisa began her research into Aruba’s travel guidelines and requirements. She discovered she’d need to submit a negative COVID test within 72 hours of her departure date of Oct. 24 and immediately scheduled an appointment at a local testing center for Oct. 20.

After months of seldom leaving her house despite grocery shopping and dining outdoors, Lisa was ready to “get back out there and live.” She’d wear a mask and practice social distancing, so she felt she was being as responsible as she could be.

Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort | Photo by Lisa Levitt

“With the ‘new normal’ of heightened travel safety and cleanliness protocols, it is very important that our visitors and the Aruban people work together to make sure we ‘do it right,’” Lisa read from the Aruba Travel website.

To ensure she didn’t miss any important requirements, Lisa Levitt, 50, consulted her travel agent, Carolyn Harvey, who just so happened to be her lifelong friend and invited her to travel to Aruba with her. “It gave me more peace of mind working with a travel agent when planning my vacation during the pandemic,” Lisa said. “There’s so much you just don’t think of on your own.”

The travel industry has been majorly impacted since the start of the pandemic, so travelers and travel agents are working closely now more than ever before to ensure safe travel and the industry’s recovery.

Continue reading “Choosing to Travel During a Global Pandemic”

Finding Balance Between Reporting the Whole Story and Wanting Your Story Read

Journalists will continue doing their best to cover both sides of an issue, but it’s up to the reader to seek out the full story.

Journalists are tasked with huge responsibilities. Report only the facts. Report both sides of the story. Be objective. Inform the public of what is happening in the community. Support claims with tangible evidence.

These are the civic, democratic duties of journalists, but what happens when you take the perspective of journalism as a business and journalists as simple professionals trying to make a living?

“Not only does [journalism] protect the people, but also the political integrity of our society, as it participates in ensuring that what is said in the public space can be used to make informed decisions,” says journalist Marc Cataford.

As Cataford suggests, a journalist’s job is to find all sides of the story, present the facts, and let readers discern their own beliefs or opinions. Their job isn’t to “create the news,” it’s to report the news. However, can journalists really handle so much responsibility? What happens when the other side of the story isn’t shocking or exciting enough to make audiences read about it?

Being a journalist, despite all the standards associated with the profession, is still just a profession. Journalists do their best to produce stories their bosses will find newsworthy, or “interesting enough to the general public to warrant reporting,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. That may mean one side of the story gets more coverage than the other.

Think back to several months ago when Dallas saw protesters, rioters and looters swarming the streets of downtown in response to George Floyd’s death by a police officer in Minneapolis.

Which stories did you see more often in the news – print, digital or broadcast – stories about peaceful protests or stories about protesters smashing windows of businesses and cars? You probably saw more coverage about the protests that ended in rubber bullets flying through the crowds and teargas nightmares. Why is that?

It’s no simple task covering both sides of the story. As a journalist myself, when I sit down to write a story, I think about what actually happened and then consider what will make my story interesting enough to read.

You see more coverage about violent protests because those are the stories that are interesting and invite readers to form opinions such as “violent protests are wrong,” or “police officers use so much force when fighting off protestors,” or “the President should do something about this.”

If you read a story about a peaceful protest, all readers do is learn about an event that took place. Exciting and controversial stories are more effective in inviting readers to investigate the root of the cause and form their own opinions. Peaceful protests don’t really invite readers to do much other than read the story and go along with their days.

Around the time of these violent protests in Dallas, my father began asking me “Why are we only seeing news about the violent protests? They’re clearly not all violent.” He wondered how journalists could be so ignorant and self-serving to only provide news on violent protests.

I thought about his concerns for a long time and finally replied, “Because, dad, would you read a story that only told you about protesters walking down the street holding up signs and chanting?” My dad said no.

My father’s question began making me wonder why journalists cover one side of the story more than the other. Why are less controversial or conflicting stories read significantly less and don’t make it to the front page?

“Conflict and controversy attract our attention by highlighting problems or differences within the community,” says PBS.

Controversy is exciting. When journalists seek to cover Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, a lot of the coverage you see centers on her views on abortion, the main issue dividing Democrats and Republicans on the nominee. If you asked anyone walking down the street in downtown Dallas what Barrett’s major political views are, they’re more likely to mention her stance on abortion rights than anything else.

This is because Barrett’s views on abortion rights are controversial, exciting and relevant to current political discourse. Does that make journalists self-serving, knowing readers are more interested in how conflicting Trump’s nominee is on this particular issue and therefore focus on that single issue?

We are susceptible to getting “swept up” in both a story’s message and in the manner of its telling, according to psychologists Melanie Green and Timothy Brock. So, readers are likely to be more interested in the controversy of Barrett’s views on abortion rights rather than other, more typical views that don’t spark heated conversation. This kind of coverage easily gives readers something to comment on and form an opinion about.

Journalists work to persuade readers to keep reading and to find out more. Green and Brock suggest that the most important trait of a persuasive story is how engaging the story is. If this is true, doesn’t that mean both sides probably won’t be covered equally?

Journalism plays a vital role in democracy and public discourse, but it does so by storytelling; and storytelling can’t be completely objective and unbiased. Bill Kovach’s The Elements of Journalismin fact, describes journalism as “storytelling with a purpose.”

Journalists know that readers are more likely to read a controversial story and form opinions than with a dry, fact-oriented story.

“The purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments,” says the American Press Institute.

Controversial and conflicting stories have more ability to shape and mold society. You may not hear about the non-controversial or already known and understood side of an issue, but that isn’t exactly what journalists are trying to do in the first place. Yes, journalists seek to inform the public, but interesting stories are more effective in persuading readers to form opinions that will influence their decisions.

Journalists can’t be entirely neutral when they already know what readers are specifically interested in at the moment.

The American Press Institute explains that “being impartial or neutral is not a core principle of journalism. Because the journalist must make decisions, he or she is not and cannot be objective.”

This further emphasizes the importance of readers doing their homework and paying attention to stories that don’t seem all that interesting or exciting. It isn’t necessarily one journalist’s job to report both sides of the story, it’s more so the reader’s job to seek out coverage on both sides of the story.

The news isn’t always newsworthy. That’s the harsh truth of news coverage. Individual journalists can present objective facts and truths on one side of the story and briefly summarize the other side, but it’s up to the reader to acknowledge that there are always more sides to a story.

When an issue has two sides, one more conflicting and the other more plain, readers are more likely to read stories on the more exciting side. This isn’t to say journalists shouldn’t cover both sides of the story; they should. However, journalists can’t balance reporting the truth of both sides and what’s interesting all at once.

Readers are going to continue seeing sensationalized headlines, but that means readers need to do more in seeking out the full story. Journalists will continue focusing on newsworthy content and inserting as much of the other side as possible. It’s up to the reader to find both sides layered in each story.

Journalists have a responsibility to inform the public, but journalism is still a business, the newsworthy side of an issue will always win readers’ attention and the whole story may not be that easy, or interesting, to uncover, but it’s up to readers to finish the job.

Dallas Love Field Airport Wins Multiple Honors

Dallas Love Field Airport flew to the top of major airport rankings, receiving two new honors this September.

Dallas Love Field is one of two area airports many SMU students use to fly home or on vacation. J.D. Power named Love Field North America’s best large airport and it was inducted into the Airports Council International World (ACI) Roll of Excellence for its multiple honors through the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards program.

Airports that earn five ASQ awards over a 10-year period are inducted into the ACI World Roll of Excellence, and Dallas Love Field is now one of the 55 airports worldwide to have received the honor since its inception in 2011.
Airports that earn five ASQ awards over a 10-year period are inducted into the ACI World Roll of Excellence, and Dallas Love Field is now one of the 55 airports worldwide to have received the honor since its inception in 2011. | Photo by the City of Dallas.

The airport’s central location within Dallas and about four miles from SMU makes it a popular place for the SMU community to travel.

Airport satisfaction has risen sharply since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Love Field ranking highest among large airports with a score of 844 (on a 1,000-point scale), according to J.D. Power’s 2020 North America Airport Satisfaction Study released in September.

“In its category (airports that serve 15-25 million passengers yearly), DAL did very well in airport access, check in, facilities, food, beverage and retail, and bag claim,” said Michael Taylor, J.D. Power spokesperson. “Hopefully, considering our data, the SMU community will recognize what other passengers and airport reports have recognized; Love Field is one of the best airports in North America and a pleasant place to fly in and out of.”

J.D. Power has been delivering incisive industry intelligence on customer interactions with brands and products for more than 50 years. The world’s leading businesses across major industries rely on J.D. Power to guide their customer-facing strategies. | Photo from LinkedIn.

Now in its 15th year, the study serves as a benchmark and measures overall traveler satisfaction within 30 days of passengers’ travel.

The other organization that honored Love Field, ACI, inducted the airport into its ASQ program, a subscription model that surveys passengers while at the airport about airport services, perceptions and priorities compared to other airports around the world.

Its role is to be a comprehensive business tool for airports, offering detailed analysis into various aspects of the passenger experience.

Airports Council International (ACI), established in 1991, is the only global trade representative of the world’s airports. | Photo from ACI.

Since the ACI World’s 2020 Customer Experience Global Summit was canceled due to the pandemic, ASQ winners will be recognized virtually for both its ASQ Award and Roll of Excellence honor during ASQ Customer Experience Week beginning Oct. 26, according to an airport press release.

“Our program evaluates every part of the passenger journey,” said David Whitely, ACI vice president for marketing and communications. “We not only celebrate airports and offer them a competitive edge in an increasingly sophisticated industry, but demonstrate to passengers how airports adapt to the times, address passengers’ concerns and offer experiences to its customers.”

Employee satisfaction is another key objective in both reports.

“Southwest [Airlines] is known for its hub at Love Field and reflects its can-do attitude, convenience and attention to every traveler onto the airport,” said Southwest customer service representative, Sean Dennis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the global airport industry to a standstill with an estimated reduction in passenger traffic of 5.6 billion, according to an ACI media release.

Dallas Love Field, according to its website, is leading the evolution of the airport experience. | Photo from LinkedIn.

Despite this 76 percent nationwide reduction in passenger traffic since March 1, which financially devastated many airports, customer satisfaction has improved, as those still flying enjoy less crowded terminals and see airports taking special interest in passenger perceptions and prioritization of hygiene, according to a J.D. Power media release.

This is especially true for Dallas Love Field. The airport has demonstrated significant efforts in gathering passenger feedback to help better understand customers during the pandemic, said Chris Perry, Love Field communications and marketing manager.

"We aim to be the best medium-hub airport in the United States while leading the evolution of the airport experience," said Dallas Love Field Airport spokesperson, Chris Perry. "All of the decisions we’ve made in relation to capital improvements are related to that and improving our customer experience."
“We aim to be the best medium-hub airport in the United States while leading the evolution of the airport experience,” said Dallas Love Field Airport spokesperson, Chris Perry. “All of the decisions we’ve made in relation to capital improvements are related to that and improving our customer experience.” | Photo by Shutterstock.

“Our customers have shown time and time again that they appreciate our proactive responses,” Perry said. “That shows in our receiving of these honors and our ASQ overall satisfaction score of 4.48 out of 5 at the end of this year’s first quarter.”

The airport served nearly 17 million passengers in 2019, the most in its history, and already more than 5 million passengers this year, despite the pandemic, according to a Love Field total passengers report for August.

“We hope the SMU community continues making Dallas Love Field its airport of choice,” Perry said. “With our location, ease of use and seamless travel experience – one ticketing wing, one security checkpoint, one baggage claim – we have everything that busy SMU students and faculty could hope for in an airport.”

New American Airlines Procedures to Impact DFW Economy and SMU Students

American Airlines presented at Cowen’s Global Transportation and Sustainable Mobility Conference last week.

American Airlines aircrafts
American Airlines aircrafts | Photo by
Patrick T. Fallon of Bloomberg News

DALLAS – SMU students may struggle choosing which airline to fly over the quickly approaching holiday season, and DFW’s economy will, more than likely, experience a major blow.

Continue reading “New American Airlines Procedures to Impact DFW Economy and SMU Students”