Dec 5 • 9 min read
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Ask Melissa Cameron, Jeanne Kim, Leah Pillsbury, and Kathryn Wiggins about their decisions to pursue a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) degree at the Fox School, and they sound much like students and graduates of the last six MAcc cohorts: interested in life after graduation as a CPA and accounting professional.

It’s when you ask the four women about the paths they took to the Fox School that their stories take a unique turn; all four graduated several years ago with undergraduate degrees in a variety of liberal arts majors — theater and dance for Melissa; sociology for Jeane; citizenship for Leah; and philosophy and science for Kathryn.

Over the course of their professional careers since graduation, each has come in contact with and developed an interest in accounting, often called the “language of business” — Jeane and Leah in their non-profit jobs, and Melissa as a manager of dance and theater companies; and Kathryn as a manager for a group of bars in South Philadelphia. The interest became strong enough for all four women to pursue a business education and eventually decide to apply and enroll in the Fox MAcc Class of 2017–2018.

“[My role as a general manager] involved a good bit of accounting and business management, but I had no formal business education at all. To fix that problem, I took a couple undergrad classes…I applied for the MAcc program when I discovered I could become an accountant, get my CPA, and have a career doing something I enjoyed doing very much,” says Kathryn Wiggins.

But why the Fox MAcc? All four agree the program’s focus on the CPA exam was a strong selling point, as the curriculum includes built-in time for review courses and sittings for all four parts of the exam. This especially appealed to Leah, the mom of a one-year-old daughter, who says it would be difficult to study for and pass the CPA exam without time specifically included for this important goal of hers. The program’s top-notch ranking — ranked among the Top 20 in the region, according to the 2017 Public Accounting Report — was also appealing.

“There’s a great mix within my MAcc cohort of professionals from all different backgrounds—people like myself from the non-traditional background with an interest in accounting and have received an undergraduate degree several years ago, students who have studied a variety of majors, and those from the traditional business background,” says Leah. “I don’t feel like the minority having come from a non-traditional background. It’s been nice to have such a great mix of people.”

Melissa, Jeane, Leah, and Kathryn make up a Class of 2017–2018 cohort of 51 students with strong academic credentials. All students without a bachelor’s degree in Accounting are required to complete six prerequisite accounting courses.

Get to know Melissa, Jeane, Leah, and Kathryn in the profiles below and find out where their post-graduation career opportunities are taking them.


PICPA Student Writing CompetitionMelissa Cameron
MAcc Class of 2018

Undergraduate Degree, Year, School: Theater and Dance, English, 2008, Amherst College

How did you develop your interest in accounting? 
I was managing small dance and theatre companies around Philly and had to prepare financial statements for reporting to funders and grantmakers, boards of directors, and the IRS. I found pretty quickly that I had a knack for creating financial reports that were comprehensive and easy to understand. I also loved the logic within the accounting language — the balance of being detailed down to the level of a single transaction and comprehensive to the extent of the financial wellbeing of an organization as a whole.

Do you feel your non-accounting undergraduate degree gives you an edge in the MAcc program and/or workforce? How so? 
I’m not sure that my liberal arts background gives me an edge, except to the extent that I am a decent writer now. I do think that my work experience has been helpful, though. Because I’ve had to use accounting in my work experience, sometimes I can give accounting concepts a practical context. 

Why did you choose the Fox MAcc program? 
Two main reasons: 1. Time for CPA exam review is built into the program. I’m really not sure why more MAcc programs don’t do this. 2. I took pre-req courses while I was applying to MAcc programs and was really impressed by both the caliber of my professors and the students with whom I was working. I also really admire Professor Sheri Risler, director of the Fox MAcc program! 

What do you hope to achieve with your MAcc degree? 
I’m really open to where my career takes me from here. I joined the MAcc program looking to expand my opportunities, and so far, that’s playing out well. 

What are your post-graduation plans? 
I’m entering the public accounting field and will be taking an audit position with Deloitte in September 2018. I’m looking forward to exposure to new industries and new experiences.


PICPA Student Writing CompetitionJeane Kim
MAcc Class of 2018

Undergraduate Degree, Year, School: BA Sociology, 1993, Haverford College

How did you develop your interest in accounting?
I spent eight years at a non-profit where I learned about financial reporting in the course of my job. As my position didn’t allow for upward movement, I began exploring career options that aligned with my increasing interest in business. I became hooked after taking an introductory accounting course.

Do you feel your non-accounting undergraduate degree gives you an edge in the MAcc program and/or workforce? How so? 
My liberal arts background developed my analytical and writing skills, which have definitely been useful in my classwork. 

Why did you choose the Fox MAcc program?
I was looking for a program that would fulfill my accounting credit hour requirements and include study time for the CPA exam. Also, Fox has an excellent reputation for networking and job placement; Professor Sheri Risler, director of the Fox MAcc program, and CSPD staff prepared me well for the job search process.

What do you hope to achieve with your MAcc degree?
Thanks to the MAcc program, I am starting a professional career in my mid-40s! I hope to achieve my goal of becoming a CPA and work in tax accounting.
What are your post-graduation plans? 

I recently accepted a position as a staff accountant at Kreischer Miller starting in the fall of 2018.


PICPA Student Writing CompetitionKathryn Wiggins
MAcc Class of 2018

Undergraduate Degree, Year, School: BA in Philosophy and Science, University of Penn, ’03

How did you develop your interest in accounting?
Before I entered the MAcc program, I was the general manager for a group of bars in South Philadelphia. That role involved a good bit of accounting and business management, but I had no formal business education at all. To fix that problem, I took a couple undergrad classes (in Accounting and Economics) at the Fox School. I applied for the MAcc program when I discovered I could become an accountant, get my CPA, and have a career doing something I enjoyed doing very much.

Do you feel your non-accounting undergraduate degree gives you an edge in the MAcc program and/or workforce? How so?
Oddly enough, I do feel my Philosophy degree has helped me with the MAcc program. My Philosophy courses taught me to be skeptical and think critically. I’ve learned that both these skills are useful to accountants.

Why did you choose the Fox MAcc program?
The MAcc program is extremely practical. The way it has been set-up, students graduate with not only the educational credits needed to attain licensure, but also (for the most part) success in passing all four parts of the CPA exam. Also, prior to applying, I noticed that the program’s director, Professor Risler, was very involved in, and dedicated to, ensuring the success of the MAcc cohort.

What do you hope to achieve with your MAcc degree?
My goal is to prepare myself for a career in public accounting focused on tax.

What are your post-graduation plans?
I accepted a tax associate position at PwC, which will begin in the fall/winter after MAcc graduation.


PICPA Student Writing CompetitionLeah Pillsbury
MAcc Class of 2018

Undergraduate Degree, Year, School: BA with a concentration in Citizenship, New York University, 2005

How did you develop your interest in accounting?
I’ve always been interested in the operations and numbers side of things. For the past 10 years, I’ve worked in non-profits, mostly as a fundraiser for capital campaigns, and came to have a greater appreciation for how powerful financial knowledge can be. As I was really enjoying the accounting and financial operations, I realized I could benefit from learning more about accounting practices in a graduate program and apply the knowledge in both an accounting career and as a volunteer fundraiser.

Do you feel your non-accounting undergraduate degree gives you an edge in the MAcc program and/or workforce? How so?
As a liberal arts education teaches students how to read and write, I feel advanced in my communication skills, which are valuable to business employers.

Why did you choose the Fox MAcc program?
I decided to apply to obtain a MAcc degree because I wanted to pursue a career transfer. I chose the Fox School’s MAcc program because of its excellent reputation and the time built into the program for CPA reviews. My goal was to earn both a MAcc degree and take all four parts of the CPA exam over the course of the program, as I knew this would make me a more marketable as a job applicant. I also am the parent of a one-year-old daughter and knew it would be hard for me to find time to study for the CPA exam. The Fox School provides me with the opportunity to pursue my MAcc degree and study to pass the CPA exam at the same time.

What do you hope to achieve with your MAcc degree?
I hope to build experience in public accounting after graduation as an auditor. From there, I hope to discover what I like and enjoy in the profession, learn more about government and industry, and see where my career takes me.

What are your post-graduation plans?
I obtained a full-time position in auditing at BerryDunn in Portland, Maine, where some of my family currently resides.