The five words Christina Simoes ’14 chooses to explain what makes John Schatzel a rock star in the world of accounting professors speak volumes about their shared love of numbers.
“He lived and breathed audit!”
Now an accountant at world-renowned PricewaterhouseCoopers, Christina says the passion Schatzel brought to his courses was a major source of motivation as she navigated Stonehill’s challenging Accounting Program. “His level of dedication and love of the topic makes you want to go to class,” she says.
The payoff of such dedication is a steady stream of graduates who get the opportunity to hone their skills on the front lines in major accounting firms and then parlay that experience in careers that range from doing business analysis at a major media outlet to charting strategies at a multinational corporation.
“At Stonehill, the professors don’t just teach to the textbook,” says Laura Hayes ’12, a business analyst at WGBH-TV Boston, which produces more than two-thirds of the nationally distributed programs broadcast by PBS. “My experience was that in order to perform well in the business classes, I really had to understand the material, because the questions I encountered on exams and papers were designed to test comprehension, not memorization.”
The result for Laura was significant. In 2012, she achieved one of the top three scores on the Massachusetts CPA exam, considered one of the most difficult professional licensing tests (historically, fewer than 50 percent of those who sit for the exam pass it). Her score was so impressive, in fact, that the Massachusetts Society of CPAs honored her at its annual reception in 2013. And just recently, the National Academy of Public Accounting Professionals included two grads – Jacquelyn Tracy ’88 of of Mandel & Tracy LLC and Michelle Spriggs ’93 of CBIZ Tofias – on its 2015 list of Top 10 Public Accounting Professionals for Rhode Island.
According to Professor Debra Salvucci, who directs the Accounting Program, Laura’s accomplishment is impressive, but not surprising. “It’s not uncommon for me to hear from students when they pass the CPA exam — and they routinely do very well,” she says.
AACSB Accredited and Grounded in the Liberal Arts
The Accounting Program falls under the umbrella of Stonehill’s renowned Business Administration Program, which in 2011 earned accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. AACSB accreditation represents the highest standard of achievement for business schools worldwide. Fewer than 5 percent of the world’s 13,000 business programs have earned it.
As an external measure of excellence, that kind of accreditation is significant. The Accounting Program’s success, however, rests on more than just business courses. “Stonehill students learn accounting, but they also learn to be critical thinkers and problem solvers,” says Salvucci. “They think creatively and learn to work well with others. We have small classes, and from their first semester in their freshman year, they’re doing group and team projects.”
Justin Shepard ’08 says the approach helped give him an edge in a competitive field.
“A lot of my peers went to business schools where the curriculum was primarily focused on business, but at Stonehill we were able to take enriching liberal arts courses,” says Justin, whose career has given him a sweeping perspective of the business world. He started in audit with Grant Thornton, moved to financial consulting for mergers and acquisitions at PwC, and now serves as vice president of finance at Brand Networks, the leading provider of data-informed social marketing solutions. “When you get out in the business world, you can’t have just your accounting hat on. You get a lot thrown at you and you have to adapt quickly. Stonehill equipped me with the skills that now allow me to juggle a lot of balls at the same time.”
Jackie Smith ’00, a senior category merchant with office-supply giant Staples, echoes that sentiment. “Stonehill grounded me as a business professional,” she says, noting that she worked for Grant Thornton before deciding to merge her accounting background with an interest in merchandising. “My current position is very much like running my own little business. It’s about owning the P&L [profit and loss] and using financial levers to drive the business.”
Internships and a Network of Mentors Bolster Career Success
In addition to crediting outstanding accounting faculty who all have significant field experience, graduates point to the program’s two required internships as being critical to broadening their horizons and launching their careers. Career Connection, a database maintained by the Office of Career Services, contains hundreds of job and internship opportunities available exclusively to Stonehill students and alumni.
Accounting students spend full semesters at firms in cities such as Boston, New York and Los Angeles, and for those who want international experience, opportunities abound in places such as London, Paris, Madrid and Dublin. Mixing internships with other opportunities, Shepard spent 10 days in Brussels studying the European Union during his sophomore year, studied abroad in Australia for six months and then completed an internship in Ireland.
Christina, the newly minted accountant in PwC’s Boston office, says her successful career launch was the product of not only mentors such as Professor Schatzel but also the professional connections she was able to make while on campus. Early on in her time at Stonehill, she was selected by PwC for its Elevate Program for high-achieving college students, which in turn led to an internship in the audit department at PwC during the summer before her senior year.
“Our internship program is second to none,” says Salvucci. “More often than not, these internships lead to full-time jobs. It’s a program that’s very, very successful.”
Accounting major Michael Hogan ’15 couldn’t agree more. He has completed a summer internship at PwC and will join the firm’s Management Consulting Group after he graduates this spring. “Between exposing me to many different opportunities in the accounting and finance fields and teaching me the technical and soft skills necessary to excel outside the classroom, Stonehill has helped me set a high bar for the way I interact with people and the type of work I hope to do,” he says. “Stonehill has put me in a great position to figure out what I want to do with my life and how to do it.”