Master’s in Accounting: Grace Cheng, University of Rochester (Simon)

Student Name: Grace Cheng

Graduate Business School: University of Rochester Simon Business School 

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: Fueled by coffee, I’m a soon-to-be-licensed accounting professional with experience in wealth and asset management. 

Master’s Graduation Class: 2020.

Undergraduate School and Major: Trinity University in San Antonio, Accounting and Finance.

Current Employer and Job Title: Ernst & Young, Financial Services Office Assurance Staff

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment is finding a path within audit that I feel comfortable going down for the next couple of years. Every day I’m learning something new, whether it be about the financial processes involved with private equity or about the audit process itself. I’m lucky to learn complex financial concepts from bright minded, caring coworkers who know how to best leverage the unique skill sets that each member brings to the team. I definitely wouldn’t have this opportunity if it weren’t for Simon!

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: During my time at Simon, I was fortunate to be chosen for the Master Advisory Council, where I ensured that the voices of my classmates were heard, especially at the onset of the pandemic. The pandemic presented unique challenges, however, I stayed engaged with my colleagues and made sure they were informed on the administration’s responses and changes made to our academic experiences. I’ve found this ability to stay engaged remotely has been transferrable to my career today as everyone is working remotely for the time being. 

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I chose the Simon Business School after visiting campus and talking to current students at the time. Everyone I met was approachable, informative, and open about their experience at Simon. Although it sounds cliche, the people that I met on campus ultimately made me want to attend the Simon Business School. While at Simon, I’ve gotten to know the same sort of friendly and open-natured people that greeted me on my first day there. Ensuring that I left my mark in a culture that is welcoming and encourages teamwork was and still is deeply important to me.

What led you to choose a Master’s in Accounting over an MBA? Before deciding on a Master’s in accounting, I had two clear goals in mind: get a job that will set me on track as an auditor and get my CPA license. A Master’s in accounting was the perfect fit, since the career support is tailored towards accounting-related positions and the coursework is detailed enough to incorporate CPA practice questions into the curriculum. 

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career? Though it wasn’t directly accounting related, I’d have to say that Programming for Analytics was my favorite course. Liza Mohr, the professor for the course, was great at explaining difficult concepts and I genuinely enjoyed her lectures. In the class, we gained a foundation for programming within the R environment and learned how data is organized and pulled from databases, including the process that turns raw data into datasets that other analytics tools can leverage. Having this skillset early on in my career has allowed me to think logically about how tools such as Alteryx can be applied to simplify workflows or reduce repetition not only in assurance, but in any line of work. 

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program? Being surrounded by the close-knit student body at Simon allowed me to network with MBA students, who were very supportive during the job search process. There was no shortage of people at Simon – from peers to faculty – who were willing to help me (and many of my other classmates) prepare for my interviews and discussions during my job hunt. 

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? I always felt supported by my classmates both in and outside of the classroom. At Simon, there’s a culture of setting competition aside and helping each other first, which has definitely helped when the school year gets stressful or your fellow classmates feel discouraged. Everyone is always looking out for each other.

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? Simon Business School has a lot of great faculty members, however the person that had the most impact on my overall experience at Simon was Victoria Waldron. She worked closely with the master’s advisory council and at the time advised finance major students. Most importantly, she built genuine connections with everyone and assuaged every stressed-out grad student that walked into her office, regardless of major. grad school stress is serious. Knowing that someone has your back is sometimes just the motivation you need.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate Master’s program? Simon Business School values diversity and embraces those that bring different experiences with them to the program. It is imperative for applicants to be understanding and accepting of others. 

What was your best memory from your Master’s program? There’s no specific memory that stands out, however, I’d say that the people I met were amazing and made my experience at Simon unforgettable. I made a lot of good friends during my time at Simon Business School that I stay in touch with still today.

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