I think an appropriate place to start the story of my journey across the country to UVA and back would be at the University of Oregon, where I got my undergraduate degree in Accounting. Senior year at Oregon was exciting and nerve-wracking, all wrapped around a national championship appearance for the football team (we lost). I was taking difficult, (but not “intermediate accounting” difficult) upper-level business courses as part of the Lundquist College of Business at UO. Oh what I would give to go back to no classes on Friday and those famous Oregon summers…
Eugene, Oregon was wonderful and much different than my hometown of Reno, Nevada. Eugene, like many small college towns revolves around the university and the city really comes to life when school is in session. Oregon is on a trimester schedule which means that classes are only 10 weeks long. The year is split into three terms: Fall, Winter (lots and lots and lots of rain), and Spring (not much studying got done when that sun was shining!) My liberal arts education at Oregon helped me to excel at McIntire and beyond. From a size perspective, UVA has slightly lower attendance compared to UO (approx 19k vs. 24k respectively). However, UVA has a much larger graduate student population and I immediately felt a connection to the graduate community at McIntire! A feeling that would have been difficult to replicate at Oregon.
I come from a long line of accountants and immediately I took to it fairly well (much to the pleasure of my mother who has been a practicing CPA for 25+ years). I enjoyed the order of it and the foundational business knowledge that it cultivated. After deciding that I wanted to be a CPA I had to make a few decisions:
- Where would I like to work after school? (Industry? Location? Firm?)
- What were the CPA requirements in that state?
- Would I get a master’s or a double major to fulfill the 5-year credit requirement to sit for the CPA exam?
If like me, you procrastinated a bit on deciding what your career choice would be, you may have missed out on some early recruiting opportunities as a part of your undergrad program. With this in mind, here is what I decided: I wanted to work in San Francisco in the asset management space (Hedge Funds, Private Equity, Venture Capital). I wanted to become a licensed CPA in the state of California and I needed help networking with firms in the bay area. The University of Oregon had strong recruiting ties in Portland, Oregon and Eugene but not much exposure to San Francisco….I realized quickly that I needed a school with a truly national brand that would help me secure the job I wanted. After researching the nation’s top accounting programs, I applied to the M.S. in Accounting at UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce. I took part in a few of the online chat sessions, studied hard for the GMAT and was beyond excited when I was informed of my acceptance.
I visited Charlottesville in the summer of 2012 and immediately fell in love. The red brick buildings, the rolling Shenandoah hills, the southern hospitality, and of course the impressive confines of McIntire made my decision easy. I immediately felt included and it started with the Faculty at McIntire during my tour of the school. After a lovely (highly informational) tour of the school given by none other than Sally Armentrout, the Director of Student Life, my mother and I had a great lunch on the corner and enjoyed a wonderful Virginia afternoon in the sun. My roommates (whom were also grad students at McIntire – thanks UVA!) were from North Carolina and Michigan. I remain close friends with them and we communicate frequently. McIntire helped to place me with other students in the program and I am grateful for that service.
The classes were challenging and the professors were interesting. I was lucky enough to get to know a few of them personally! Lefanowicz has a mean golf game, Roberts sparked some of the best debates I have been a part of, Pentz made us laugh and cry and better public speakers in the process. I learned to value things that have no price, to present in front of a classroom of your peers, to think critically and collaboratively, and even how to tie a bow tie. The collaborative nature of the classwork and the honor system at UVA sets you up well to succeed whatever your career path.
My advice to anyone considering McIntire or a large cross country move is to GET INVOLVED!! I was a part of the Graduate Student Council and I met some amazing people that supported me throughout my time at McIntire. I had the opportunity to meet Dean Z (through grad council luncheons) and that was something I remember fondly. He spoke fondly of McIntire alumni in the bay area and that interaction gave me the confidence to apply out west. I also got to interact with some of the best and brightest the University has to offer!! Admissions and Grad Programs at UVA is second to none and I remain friends with many of the individuals I worked with during my time there.
I do think it is valuable to mention separately the Commerce Career Services (CCS) at McIntire. I came in expecting a world class experience and I was blown away….McIntire attracts the top firms in every field (especially accounting/finance). The fervor with which recruiters come after McIntire grads is truly something to behold. CCS is unparalleled and such a resource for students coming in without employment. There were events almost daily during the fall with firms coming from all over the nation (not just the Big 4 – of course they were well represented) but consulting firms, tech firms, sales, etc. You name it, CCS provided you the opportunity to chase it.
I got exactly what I put in and within the first three months of the program I had offers from three Big Four firms in San Francisco. I ultimately ended up at EY in their FSO Assurance group but all my opportunities were world class.
After graduation (which is a wonderful event on the lawn at UVA) I decided to stick around and do an intensive summer CPA program. Many of my classmates decided to do the same thing and we held each other accountable. You have class Monday through Friday, 9am – 3pm, and you get through all of the Becker materials. It was difficult to be inside during the summer in C-ville but it was easier to do with friends. When the class ended in August I took two parts of the exam in Charlottesville (studying in McIntire throughout the summer) and two in Oregon. I took about three weeks in between tests and it wasn’t easy…but my education at UVA set me up well and I am happy to say I passed all the tests on my first try.
I have been a practicing CPA in San Francisco for the past four years and I always look back on my time in the M.S. in Accounting program with fond memories. I’ll end with a few reasons NOT to attend UVA’s McIntire program mostly because it will annoy Sally (just kidding Sally!) but more for your benefit.
- You don’t enjoy working collaboratively with classmates.
- You don’t enjoy being challenged daily by peers, professors, and administrative officials.
- You want to take classes from professors who have memorized text books vs. those who wrote them.
- You don’t enjoy being outdoors and reading a book on the Lawn in front of Thomas Jefferson.
- You don’t enjoy a beer and a gus burger (have to experience it to judge it).
If I had to go back, the only thing I would change is the codification I cited on my first research paper. McIntire made me a better accountant, a better person and friend, and Virginia will always have a place in my heart. GO HOOS!!
-Written by Kevin Kahan, M.S. in Accounting 2013