By Sharon Harris (M.S. in Accounting ’22)
Leading and communicating effectively as accounting professionals are cornerstones of the M.S. in Accounting Program here at McIntire. The emphasis on soft skills and technical accounting skills is one of the many reasons I chose McIntire.
Two classes that all M.S. in Accounting students take their fall semester are Leading for Success in the Accounting Profession and Communicating Effectively as Accounting Professionals. These courses teach students how to be well-rounded members of the workforce, focusing on skills such as giving feedback, asking for help, and speaking confidently about any topic. Both the leadership and communication courses have been integral parts of the M.S. in Accounting Program for more than 10 years. These courses have changed over time, but their importance to McIntire has stayed constant. I sat down with both professors of these courses to help describe why they are so important to M.S. in Accounting students and why they love teaching them so much.
Leading for Success in the Accounting Profession
“This class is so important because we are training people to be professionals,” Professor Andrea Roberts said. “Eventually, this means that you will be managing somebody, on a team, in a professional environment. If you are going to be working with other people, a course like this is important across the board.”
Not only does this course provide students the opportunity to learn about their leadership styles, but Professor Roberts also learns something new every time she teaches the course. “I’ve got an opportunity to learn something new,” Professor Roberts said. “You don’t get trained to do any of this stuff in accounting. I think this is the area that really sets a McIntire student apart from other students.”
During my first week at McIntire, I quickly realized that the leadership course would be one of the most important to both my personal and professional development. Students have the opportunity to learn about their working styles, hear from and ask questions of current CFOs, and expand their network.
One of my favorite activities, along with Professor Roberts, is the reciprocity ring. This activity teaches students how to ask for help, solve problems, and offer help to others. “As a society, we have told people that asking for help is a sign of weakness,” Professor Roberts explained. “This activity shows that asking and giving help build a network and shows students a support system.”
Activities such as the reciprocity ring are common in the leadership course. This course is designed to get students out of their comfort zones and teach them to take risks. The M.S. in Accounting faculty believe that taking risks helps propel a career, especially while young, and McIntire prepares you for this.
Communicating Effectively as Accounting Professionals
The communications course, taught by Professor Marcia Pentz, is also based on helping students succeed by encouraging them to take risks in a safe and academic setting. Having taught this course for over six years now, Professor Pentz is a champion for the importance of the communication course.
“Communicating effectively is one of the soft skills that you absolutely need to rise in a company,” Professor Pentz said. “You need to be ready to speak whenever called upon to do so, and you need to have assessed the audience and the structure of how everyone interacts.”
The ability to speak on a topic with little to no notice is crucial as students enter their careers. Practicing this type of speaking in a safe, low-stakes space has helped me feel more confident in my speaking abilities. Not only does this course teach students how to communicate in a professional setting, but it is also one of Professor Pentz’s favorite classes to teach.
“I love the M.S. in Accounting students,” Professor Pentz gushed. “They come in and are nervous about public speaking, but it is so fun to watch them open up and realize they can do it.”
My favorite assignment in the course so far has been the “story of you” assignment. In this assignment, you are the subject matter expert and have free reign to talk about whatever you want for one minute. These stories help connect you with your classmates on a deeper level, providing us with the opportunity to speak confidently about a topic as an introduction to the course.
Current M.S. in Accounting student Mackenzie Hudson echoes this sentiment of connection to her classmates. “Those two classes have given us great ways to meet our classmates since there is lots of work in pairs and groups,” Hudson said. “They give us a well-rounded perspective as we go into our careers. Most of the time, it’s the soft skills that differentiate us from other people in the workforce.”
Melanie Osorio, another current student, spoke similarly about these courses in the program. “I think leadership and communication classes are overlooked a lot because we take the skills for granted,” Osorio said. “We learn skills that can really differentiate us from other people in the workforce because we have taken the time to focus on specific attributes that make for better leaders and communicators.”
Many UVA students feel the same way about these courses. I think these are two of the most fun courses in the curriculum that allow you to learn a lot about yourself and others. The courses help make you more self-aware of how you lead and communicate with others and teach you ways to improve. Self-reflection and risk-taking are two critical paths to success in graduate school and beyond, for which McIntire fully prepares you.
As you can see, McIntire provides a well-rounded and holistic approach to education. The program’s focus on soft skills helps to set McIntire apart and propels students into their careers. Not only do these classes help students professionally, but they also provide students with lifelong relationships with their fellow students.
For prospective students, you can look forward to learning technical accounting skills along with soft skills here at McIntire. Come to McIntire with an open mind, a willingness to take risks, and a desire to improve to make your McIntire experience truly one-of-a-kind.
Want to learn more about the M.S. in Accounting at UVA? Request to speak with one of our Student Ambassadors to get a better understanding of the McIntire experience.