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Master’s in Accounting: Zavier Webb, University of Virginia (McIntire)

Student Name: Zavier Webb

Graduate Business School: University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: I continually seek to challenge myself professionally and personally to achieve new heights.

Master’s Graduation Class: 2020.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Mary Washington, Accounting.

Current Employer and Job Title: KPMG, Deal Advisory Associate.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I take pride in being a part of the 1% of CPAs in the United States that are Black. My biggest accomplishment so far has been passing the CPA exam. Being a first-generation college graduate has given me the motivation to exceed expectations and appreciate each step along the way.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: Professor Grazioli’s IT in Finance course challenges students to develop an automated trader to manage a $50M portfolio of stocks and options. The end goal is to consistently hedge financial risk during an accelerated six-month window. During the course, my coding skills came a long way and my team managed to win first place among students in our program. 

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I knew that choosing the University of Virginia would challenge me to develop a competitive skill set by learning from world-class faculty members, and they did not disappoint. Professor Winchel’s numerous publications regarding judgment and decision making in the accounting field and Professor Yu’s use of machine learning to detect fraud are prime examples of the kind of innovative work produced by the professors that you have access to every day. Studying under their leadership gave me the confidence that I could take on almost any problem that came my way. 

Having the opportunity to explore Charlottesville for a year was a nice perk as well. 

What led you to choose a Master’s in Accounting over an MBA? I knew I wanted to pursue a career in accounting, so looking at MBA programs didn’t make sense for me at the time. Attending a top-ranked Master’s in Accounting program would give me enough credits to be a CPA and the skills needed to hit the ground running once I started my job. 

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career? It would have to be a tie between Data Management with Professor Maurer and Forensic Accounting with Professor Negangard. The data aggregation, analysis, and presentation skills developed in these two courses are genuinely invaluable for anyone entering the accounting field; I know I use them every day. As a bonus, their respective industry expertise ensures that students understand exactly how and when to apply what they learn.

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program? Fortunately, I already accepted an offer for a full-time position after completing my undergraduate degree. Therefore, I went into the fall semester focused on a few topics and skills that I wanted to improve to ensure that I was the most effective when I started my professional career. The resources provided by McIntire went far beyond my expectations, and the support I received from professors was unmatched. 

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? The curriculum at McIntire pushes you to take on complex accounting and general business problems with the support of brilliant, hardworking classmates. Everyone brings their “A” game to each class, meeting, and presentation. I always felt as if I was surrounded by young professionals, not just college classmates. In addition to the effort we put into class, we worked just as hard to help each other out; I remember quite a few long nights in the computer lab collaborating on writing SQL queries and VBA code. 

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? Professor Lefanowicz is the man. He answered questions, reviewed rough drafts, and held study sessions 24/7. He masterfully led us through the latest accounting policy discussions and made every minute of his lectures truly engaging. I’ve never met a professor more dedicated to their students’ success.

Navigating Accounting Standards Updates and writing technical memos were definitely areas that I struggled in, which was obvious when I got my first assignment back in his class. It was the worst grade I had received on any assignment (and probably the lowest given out in the program). However, Professor Lefanowicz provided specific, constructive feedback and continued to follow up on my progress throughout the year. That experience made a world of difference when taking the CPA exam and approaching day-to-day tasks on the job.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate Master’s program? Be authentic. So much of the value of the Master’s in Accounting program at McIntire comes from an emphasis on close collaboration with your peers, who each contribute a diverse set of skills and ideas. This dynamic allows students to learn from and support each other across a broad range of topics. That kind of unique learning environment can only be possible if you present yourself as who you truly are, not who you think would be accepted.

What was your best memory from your Master’s program? I honestly couldn’t pick just one. From the first team-building activity at Triple C Camp to weekends at the Corner, our class only grew closer as time went on. We played intramural football, volleyball, and basketball together, we went to sporting events together, and people always organized group activities. So while we definitely hit the books hard, there was no shortage of good times.