We recently sat down with Program Director Andrea Roberts to ask her what makes UVA’s M.S. in Accounting Program unique and why she enjoys teaching so much.
In your words, what makes UVA’s Master’s in Accounting unique?
We think about the whole student. In the MSA Program, we want students to understand the technical aspects of accounting, but business communication and teamwork are also just as important. For example, technical aspects usually refer to the debits and credits of accounting, but we consider communication and teaming technical too. We think about the holistic experience for our students, including the relationships they build between faculty, staff, alumni, and recruiters, as well as among themselves.
What are the skills that accountants need to have on the job to be successful, and how does the Program teach those skills?
There are several key points we try to teach in our Program:
- Critical thinking: We teach this throughout all of our courses. We’re always making the student ask those “why” questions, so they can then learn how to problem-solve and find a solution. Faculty are thoughtful, even intentional, about what we ask students to do, and it’s not just busywork. We prepare you to be immediately client ready and prepared for whatever you may encounter on the job.
- Data skills: The accounting landscape is changing, relying more on analytics and AI. That’s why we now require students to take a data management course in the fall and offer more data analytics electives in the spring, like “Forensic Accounting.” Students are introduced to new software and how to leverage it, which is crucial as they enter the workforce.
- Communication: We teach business communication skills early, and often. Every course challenges students to write, present, and communicate with one another and with faculty, as well as stretch their creativity and innovation skills.
- Team building: From day one, students are put into teams. This is important because it reflects the work environment. They learn how to communicate effectively, manage schedules, resolve conflicts, and make decisions.
How do faculty go above and beyond for their students?
Everyone who teaches in the M.S. in Accounting Program truly cares about students’ emotional well-being first, then about the lecture material. They always have an “I care” attitude and are there to support students throughout their academic journey, and not just in the classroom. Faculty and staff go above and beyond to reach out to students who may be struggling or need extra assistance. We are all vested in student success and want you to be better and do better. There are so many times when I’ve had students come into my office to just talk about random things like what’s going on in their life or what they’re thinking about. It’s that level of caring that makes students feel comfortable enough to do that.
What tips do you have for students to find the right career fit?
My advice is to connect with Commerce Career Services (CCS). Most people think that CCS’ main purpose is to get people jobs, but they do so much more. They also work with students to figure out their desired career path and how to get there. They provide a tremendous amount of programming and connect students with alumni and potential employers. There is a dedicated counselor who works with M.S. in Accounting students, so they get personalized attention. CCS is an exceptional office and is there to support students’ career exploration.
What are the characteristics that make students most successful in the Program?
For me, defining success means more than one’s GPA. I feel the students who get the most out of the Program are the ones who embrace all we have to offer and are somehow transformed by the time they graduate. My hope is that student also realize the impact of the Program as well (e.g., “I am better at working with people than I thought,” “I have areas for improvement,” “That’s hard but I can get through it,” or “I’m learning exciting new topics that I may want to pursue in the future”). In my many years of teaching, I’ve realized there are a few characteristics that make a successful student:
- Willingness to learn: Students who come to UVA with the sole intention of completing 150 credits will be limited in what they gain from the Program. An open-minded student will be able to fully absorb the material and be up for any challenges in the classroom and outside of it.
- Accounting is more than just debits and credits: We give students a holistic view and challenge them to understand why accounting is what it is. It’s not just learning the numbers, debits, and credits. It’s about understanding how accounting and the profession fit into the world. And part of being a strong accounting professional is not only having good accounting skills but also having strong critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills.