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        Graduate Programs, School of Accountancy

        It’s all about the cohort

        November 1, 2022 By Michael Ares

        All News



        MAcc cohort in Puerto Rico

        Harbert College’s Master of Accountancy Class of 2023 traveled to Puerto Rico for a cultural, professional and team-building experience like no other.

        It’s not something that many – if any – business schools offer as a core component of their Master of Accountancy programs: a week-long trip outside of the United States that is tightly integrated within the accounting curriculum and includes the full cohort at no additional cost.

        “Our trips outside of the United States have proven to be a key factor in differentiating what we do from other highly ranked programs,” says Andee Hodo, director of Graduate and Online Programs in the School of Accountancy. “It has become one of the most valuable elements to our students’ success.”

        The trip abroad is intentionally planned for early in the program. What makes Auburn’s MAcc program so successful is the focus on preparing students to sit for and pass all four sections of the CPA Exam before they graduate. The international trips unite the cohorts in ways that end up paying off big-time when they all start studying for the rigorous testing they face near the end of the program. Preparing for these exams is a collaborative effort for Auburn MAcc students – they study together, help each other out with whatever challenges each of them may be facing.

        “We have found that it is one thing to be in class together, but quite another to have traveled together, to have experienced the same cultural differences, participated in the same discussions about how what you are learning in the classroom impacts the lives of the people and the organizations you will be supporting and working with when you graduate,” Hodo recounts.

        MAcc students yardwork service project

        MAcc students conducted a service project at a school while in Puerto Rico, including improving the school grounds.

        MAcc student William Schaffeld chose Auburn’s MAcc program primarily because of the overarching emphasis on studying for and passing the CPA Exam – few other programs have that focus. Schaffeld will be working for EY in their tax practice once he passes the CPA Exam, so this element of the Auburn MAcc program is critical to his next steps professionally.

        Schaffeld explains that “hearing what my classmates took away from what I heard and experienced myself – listening to their perspectives on the same information I was taking in – was both enlightening and invigorating. I got to know a few of them through our classes and other cohort-building events over the summer, but that can’t compare to what you learn about them – and they about you – when we all step away from the day-to-day, campus-based, structured sessions and are afforded unstructured time to really get to know each other.”

        In addition to bonding as a cohort, the MAcc class is also given the opportunity to study country-specific accounting issues during their international experience. The students had the opportunity to hear from professionals and industries ranging from coffee to rum and public accounting to manufacturing.

        Mitchell McFeely, a Martin Fellow, explains that “it’s one thing to study business concepts in a simulated environment like the classroom, but it’s entirely different to hear from professionals putting these concepts and lessons into practice every day. It was incredibly valuable to hear these individuals speak candidly about the challenges they face and some of the obstacles they have to overcome in today’s business environment.

        “Oftentimes when vacationing or visiting a new location, we may fail to consider local industries or businesses. Even in a paradise like Puerto Rico, there are serious challenges. The differences in the economy of Puerto Rico and the mainland U.S. are significant. From the impact of Puerto Rican tax law on local and foreign business activities to how the money collected is spent really expanded our knowledge beyond just the technical debits and credits that we’re learning about here in Auburn. It was really interesting to learn about what the island is doing to incentivize business growth and also spur their economy. Whether it’s tax credits or lifestyle benefits, Puerto Rico has become far more than just a vacation hub.”

        One other crucial component of the MAcc trip is what the Auburn creed likes to refer to as “the human touch” or in this case, the service-learning project. Prior to departure, the MAcc class had a friendly fundraising competition to support Hunger Corp., and then while in Puerto Rico they went to a local school and did about four hours of service that included painting, minor construction and cleaning the school yard. Schaffeld says that “these shared experiences opened up a lot of discussions that brought our cohort even closer together as a team.”

        Auburn’s one-year graduate program curriculum is designed to enable students to sit for all four parts of the CPA Exam before graduating from the MAcc. Since incorporating the CPA Exam into the curriculum 18 years ago, students in the Auburn MAcc program have experienced an average pass rate of 85 percent across all four parts of the exam, far exceeding the national average of 48 percent during this same time period.

        Auburn MAcc graduates recently ranked #25 in the country for alumni of large programs who passed all four parts of the exam within the required 18-month window. Andee Hodo says that “this is a huge accomplishment, and it really speaks to the preparedness of our students when they sit for the exam. Our international trips played a key role in their success.”

        The locations for next year’s MAcc class has yet to be determined. Professor James Long, who serves as the director of International Programs for the School of Accountancy, will start planning early next year to decide where they’ll be going.

        “One thing is certain,” Hodo says, “wherever we go, the experiences our students will have next year will mirror the combined cultural, educational and team building of past years’ trips. It really is a flagship component of the Auburn Master of Accountancy program.  We’re proud of that.”