Scholarship Offers Students a Wealth of Opportunities
When Governors State University Accounting senior Takeda Hill thinks of the opportunities offered to her through the elite Mary T. Washington Wylie Scholarship program, she’s nearly lost for words.
“I'm kind of speechless about it. It's like a dream. It's surreal. You hear this stuff happens to people but you don’t expect it to happen to you,” she said.
But these dreams are very much a reality. Through the scholarship program Hill has been offered assistance for the Master of Science in Accounting program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a job with the prestigious Deloitte Accounting firm, one of the "Big Four" accounting organizations and the largest professional services network in the world by revenue and number of professionals.
Which of the two she'll pick, she's still unsure.
The Mary T. Washington Wylie Scholarship Program seeks to assist African American and other racial/ethnic minority college students with entering the accounting profession by providing access to training, resources, and mentors. Named for a South Side Chicagoan who became the first African American female CPA in the U.S. in 1943, the scholarship opens doors for future generations of African American accountants to follow in her historic footsteps.
Prior to 2018, no student from GSU had received the scholarship. It took Professor Alice Keane, Faculty Advisor for the Accounting, Finance, Economics (AFE) Club, to point out the irony.
"Mary T. Washington Wiley's daughter, who was in the Illinois CPA Society and helped pick who would win the scholarship, is a graduate of GSU," she said.
Dr. Keane wanted to make sure she wasn't the last Governors State graduate to benefit from the Wiley scholarship.
In her first year with the club, Keane brought in members of the Illinois Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Society to speak to GSU students about various programs, including the Wylie Scholarship program.
These meetings made all the difference. That fall nine GSU students applied and five won, the most of any university in the Illinois. Two more GSU students won in 2019, and this year an additional four have won, including Hill.
“It was successful beyond our wildest dreams,” said Keane.
When Hill reflects on the application process, she admits that she was overwhelmed. After attending the meeting with the Illinois CPA Society liaison Elizabeth Anderson, who assisted students with the process, and being encouraged by the faculty, she finally did apply and won.
The scholarship program includes three days in downtown Chicago with panel speakers from the “Big Four” accounting firms: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. The presenters assist with resume overhauls, group and individual mock interviews, tours of accounting offices, and a reception.
“They totally revamped my resume and gave me tips and pointers in the interview workshops where we also were able to hear the answers from other interviewers which was super helpful,” said Hill.
The last day consisted of interviews with the accounting firms for paid internships and potential full time jobs. When they inquired about the attendees’ current laptop situation, Hill couldn’t help but laugh.
“I told them, 'There is no current situation with my laptop. It’s ancient,' ” she said. She received a new one.
The internship also included a $500 scholarship for the participants to use toward their education.
Previous winners have landed internships at major accounting firms and every year a Governors State student has been offered a full-ride scholarship by U of I recruiters. Keane isn’t surprised by the success of GSU students.
“We have such a great student body here of accounting students. They're amazing. They do a great job and they go really far,” she said.
After the three-day program, Hill was contacted by a recruiter from Deloitte. Within a week she was offered a job with the firm.
“I was like, oh my God! It happened so quick, and I knew it was off the strength of the Governors State program that I got it. This will be my first actual accounting job, which is amazing too,” she said.
But contemplating her decision to choose the job or the scholarship gives Hill pause.
“I actually might stay at Governors State for my master's. It’s a great school. I love it. I love the professors. Everything is great here,” she said.
Anderson, from the Illinois CPA society, will be visiting campus again on March 19 to present more opportunities for accounting students. For more information, contact Keane at firstname.lastname@example.org.