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The Big Picture

Graduate accounting program gives students global business perspective.

Any successful businessperson knows that understanding the mechanism of business and how everything works together is key. Being an effective professional requires more than just being well-versed in the specialized knowledge of your chosen field; you need to understand the big picture to really make an impact.

When it comes to integrating this global business perspective, Ohio Northern University’s Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) program delivers.

Originally called the Master of Professional Practice in Accounting (MPPA) program, the program was established in 2012, transitioning over to the Master of Science in Accounting name as of the 2016-17 academic year. The program has a notable track record of success, boasting a 100 percent placement rate within six months after graduation.

To show the true potential of this newly revised program, meet two of its students: Ellie Schmalzl, BSBA ’16, MSA ’17, and Patrick Jeffries, BSBA ’16, both in the forensic accounting and audit services (FAAS) track of the program.

Both Schmalzl and Jeffries are undergraduate alumni of Ohio Northern University, and it’s no coincidence they chose ONU for the next phase of their education.

“Choosing ONU for graduate school was probably the easiest decision I’ve made in my career,” says Jeffries. “I never even applied anywhere else. I have a lot of pride in Ohio Northern, so to be able to stay here for a little bit longer was something that I wanted to do.”

Learning through the MSA program takes place primarily online, with five eight-week terms, each comprising two courses over one year. In addition to doing assignments, students also post on discussion forums to bounce their ideas off each other and learn how everything works together. Those in the program also meet in person four times during the year for “residency weekends,” interacting in an intensive learning environment and analyzing possible real-life scenarios.

“It’s really applicable to a whole business perspective, not just accounting,” Schmalzl says. “Coming into the program, I didn’t really know what to expect, and I’ve found a lot of value in not just the accounting piece, but the global business piece.”

This active collaboration, coupled with high-impact learning opportunities, is a recipe for success in passing the CPA exam, which is the ultimate goal for the program. Since the CPA exam is comprehensive of all spheres of business and accounting, the MSA program’s classes are designed around its four separate parts. Students cover content corresponding with each part of the exam while fulfilling the specified number of credit hours required to sit for the exam.

Having started in the program last summer, Schmalzl has already passed all four parts of the CPA exam and credits the MSA program with helping her get ahead.

Everything that we learn is like review from the CPA exam because the program does a really good job at targeting that exam,” she says. “Because at the end of the day, the goal is to take that exam and be certified.

As another central piece to the business world framework, the power of networking is of great value to ONU, especially within its own extensive network of Polar Bear alumni. Active practice in networking is yet another tool the Dicke College of Business Administration equips its students with to help them succeed.

In fact, Jeffries says networking is the reason he was able to get his foot in the door with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the largest accounting firms in existence. Because of the stellar precedent set by previous ONU interns with the company, Jeffries already had the upper hand pursuing an internship at PwC. Now, after three employment stints with the company, he has progressed to different levels within PwC, finding that he has worked with at least one ONU alumnus at each level. Jeffries credits ONU’s focus on networking with his ease of professional soft skills.

“You’re just so comfortable with professional interactions and networking after a point in your education at Ohio Northern, that it’s normal to you,” he says.

The flexibility and timeframe of the program are also hard to beat, since students who take the program can do their work whenever they choose to, allowing them to work full-time and go to school, no matter what their schedule permits.

Choosing ONU for graduate school has other bonuses as well, like the ability for students to stay involved in what they are passionate about outside the classroom. Both Schmalzl and Jeffries have continued to be involved in student organizations they loved being a part of as undergraduates.

Perhaps the most significant outcome, though, is the fact that MSA graduates leave the program better professionals than when they entered it.

The program is unique in a lot of ways, but I think my favorite thing is I’ve learned a lot about business as a result,” says Schmalzl. “It hasn’t just been accounting. It’s been how to be a better business professional, and there’s so much value in that. Whether you do law, whether you do health care, or something else, knowing about business and all its different pieces is just so applicable to anybody who wants to work in business.

The MSA program assembles a winning combination. Given the high caliber of students ONU attracts and the valuable tools they are given to succeed, it’s no wonder its graduates move on to such incredible careers. After graduating from the MSA program, Schmalzl plans to attend the Virginia School of Law. Jeffries will be starting as a full-time associate at PwC in January 2018.