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Thursday, January 24, 2013 - Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants recognizes recent alum

It’s safe to say 2012 was a good year for Edward Stern, SBA (Accounting) ’11, MAcc ‘12.

Not only did the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MACPA) name Stern its Outstanding Student Member for 2011-12, the recognition came on the heels of his recently completed Masters of Accounting (MAcc) degree from Oakland University and the launch of his career as a staff accountant at “Big 4” CPA firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Stern is humbled by the MACPA recognition. “It’s such a prestigious organization. It makes the hard work I’ve put in for the past six years worth it,” he says. “And it motivates me to continue to work hard.”

Stern has shown himself more than capable of doing that.

Before he even completed his undergraduate degree, he knew he wanted a master’s degree. After reviewing his options, Stern decided the quality faculty offered through the SBA’s MAcc program made it the best choice for him.

“The flexibility within the program was a big help,” he says.

Stern earned his master’s degree one year after receiving his bachelor’s by taking his last two undergrad program courses the same term he took his first MAcc courses. In addition to his college course load, he worked full time.

Stern says he appreciates the value he gained from the challenging curriculum and networking opportunities.

“Oakland University’s School of Business Administration professors and staff are constantly bringing in firms and professionals to meet with us,” he says. “The network I was able to establish is huge. You can leverage that in so many ways.”

That’s exactly what he has done.

Stern’s relationship with PwC began the third year of his undergraduate studies when Gadis (Buck) Dillon, professor of accounting, encouraged him to pursue the organization’s Leadership Adventure program, which introduces college students to PwC and connects them with accounting professionals.

“He (Dillon) played a pivotal role in opening my eyes to all of the opportunities available at my fingertips,” Stern adds.

The leadership program opened the door to a summer internship. The internship led to the offer of a full-time accounting position before he completed his master’s degree.

In fact, most of OU’s MAcc students are offered career positions before they graduate from the program, and nearly 100 percent of the program’s students are employed in the accounting field. One of Oakland’s fastest-growing programs, the MAcc is for students interested in careers in public, corporate and non-profit accounting. The MAcc gives students the necessary education to sit for the CPA exam in Michigan and other states.

Discovering accounting

With his accounting career off to such a strong start, one would think Stern always aspired to be an accountant. However, when Stern began his undergraduate program at Oakland University, he wasn’t ready to declare a major. As he was exploring a legal career, he took a course in business law that piqued his interest in business. From there, he took an accounting class taught by Donna Free, special instructor.

Her enthusiasm immediately caught his attention. “The passion she has for the field is what I wanted for my profession,” Stern says. “A lot of people have a job; I wanted a career.”

Stern did well in Free’s class, and in his second accounting course, and discovered his major.

Free and Dillon became valuable mentors for Stern, offering him advice and encouragement.

“(Dillon) encouraged me to try different things both within and outside of the curriculum,” says Stern.

In fact, it was Dillon who encouraged Stern to become a student member of the MACPA. Stern joined Dillon and other students at MACPA symposiums, where he connected with MACPA leaders.

Stern became an active student member of the MACPA, which included making presentations to high school students about the accounting profession and making a presentation about the academic experience to the MACPA Board of Directors.

“It was a great experience,” Stern says. “As a student about to enter the profession, it is nice to have a voice that is heard.”

Stern intends to live up to the confidence the MACPA showed in him through their recognition. “I plan to remain involved,” he says. “I definitely want to play a role in shaping the profession.”

By Flori Meeks