“Everything is bigger in Texas.”
Ever hear that slogan? Well, such confidence isn’t all hat and no cattle. Take the King Ranch in South Texas. At 1,289 square miles, it is over six times the size of Chicago. And Texas’ last high school football championship drew 52,308 fans – more than almost every Major League Baseball game. So it should be no surprise that boasts are bigger in Texas in too.
Exhibit A: The University of Texas, whose motto is, “What starts here changes the world.” You can’t say the university lacks confidence. When it comes to accounting, the school more than backs it up. The school has 760 MPAs in its pipeline at any time. And MBAs are leveraging the size and scope of Texas’ undergraduate and graduate level accounting program for their own gain.
“We have a deep bench of accounting faculty that services all of the programs, says Steve Limberg, who oversees the MPA program at the McCombs School of Business. “That gives us a greater degree of freedom and ability to accommodate individuals in the accounting program.”
MCCOMBS BENEFITS FROM CONNECTIONS TO OTHER PARTS OF THE SCHOOL
This wide range of offerings, coupled with a deeply-rooted teaching culture and a commitment to staying at the forefront of change – are among the reasons why U.S. News & World Report ranks McCombs number one for accounting among MBA programs.
But the MBA program isn’t a CPA factory, says Tina Mabley, McCombs’ assistant dean and director of the full-time MBA program. “If they are really focused on accounting,” she tells Poets&Quants, “they will go to our MPA program. When our alumni come back, they often tell us that accounting and finance are courses that they’d wished they taken more of. What’s great about having an accounting program like this for our MBAs is that they really recognize the value of accounting in whatever area that they are going into…We have a wider group of students who’ve taken accounting and are using it.”
Indeed, numbers are the language of business. And financial mastery makes Texas MBAs very attractive in the marketplace, particularly to national consulting and tech firms like Deloitte, PwC, Accenture, and Dell. As McCombs MBAs master the fundamentals, they also gain the flexibility to pursue it in a more specialized context.
“MBAs now spend two years out of work force,” says Eric Hirst, the associate dean for graduate programs at McCombs. “They expect a lot. They don’t want a cookie cutter program. They want to customize.” Students looking to work in energy or investment banking, for example, can take accounting electives in those sectors. They can also broaden their knowledge by enrolling in courses from other schools at the university. “We leverage that we are at a large university and there are many opportunities at the graduate level,” Hirst adds. “We make it easy to find those opportunities.”
TEACHING CULTURE KEY TO SUCCESS
For Hirst, who has worked at the school for 23 years, McCombs’ greatest strength may be its emphasis on teaching excellence. This focus was established 60 years ago when the accounting faculty was the lead group at the school. “We stand on the shoulders of giants,” Hirst notes. “They instituted a set of values and culture that really permeates. It’s a focus on high quality teaching grounded in research and its relevance to practice.”
Those values have both stuck in the accounting department and filtered through the school as a whole. “We’re a research university, but we see our mission as creating and taking knowledge and making sure it is shared in very relevant ways with the students in the MBA program [so they can] act upon that material immediately,” says Hirst.
While research is important at McCombs, it doesn’t come at the expense of the classroom. “When it comes to hiring,” Hirst emphasizes, “we ask ourselves, ‘Is this person going to be successful in both their knowledge creation and classroom?’ If they’re having a hard time in the classroom, they’re not going to be able to succeed in any other part of their job. So we make very conscious decisions on the front end. It’s about your people fitting in with the culture.”
And that philosophy also applies to students. “One thing that stayed the same,” says Mabley, “is the type of students we bring in. We want students who will leave the place better than [they] found it… [That’s] the lifeblood of this place.” And such students are particularly appealing to employers, says Mabley. “Our reputation with employers is that our students roll up their sleeves and get the job done. They don’t sit back, but really get involved in what’s going on in their organization.”
“At the end of the day,” Hirst adds, “employers find the curriculum very, very attractive.”