Article: Pathways to success

May 1, 2024 | Business, Impact

Note: This article appeared in the Ruston Daily Leader on April 27, 2024. 
Written by: Caleb Daniel

While Joy Jennette was studying accounting at Grambling State University as an undergraduate student, she received a job offer from Deloitte.

But the position required her to earn 150 accounting credit hours, making her eligible for the CPA exam.

Without a master’s program in accounting, Jennette couldn’t get that many hours at GSU, so she began looking for other graduate school options. She considered LSU but didn’t think she could afford it.

That’s when a friend introduced her to Louisiana Tech University’s concurrent Master of Accountancy ( MAcc) program. Ever since Tech and GSU inked an agreement in 2020, GSU accounting students who meet the requirements can begin taking graduate accounting courses at Tech while finishing up their undergraduate at Grambling.

“I immediately saw it as a perfect solution to all my challenges,” Jennette said. “It felt like a stroke of luck.”

In addition to allowing GSU students accelerated entry into Tech’s master’s program, tuition is fully paid for, largely by Deloitte as well as private donors.

Chris Martin, dean of Tech’s College of Business, said the program’s partnership with GSU grew out of the reality that not only is there a shortage of new professional accountants entering the field, but especially a shortage of minority students in the industry.

“It increases diversity of thought in our program,” Martin said. “Individuals from backgrounds that all of our students may not have been exposed to, different ways of thinking. For the profession, it brings underrepresented students into the market who not have had the mentoring, the relationships this program can provide.”

Tech and GSU clearly weren’t the only ones who saw that value, as Insight into Diversity magazine — the largest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education — recently chose Tech’s College of Business for the 2024 Inspiring Programs in Business Award for its rollout of the concurrent MAcc program.

Martin said this program was the perfect pathway to extend to GSU because it allows students to still graduate from the iconic HBCU where they chose to attend as undergraduates while simultaneously speeding up their next degree.

“The kicker was the financial aid issue,” he said.

Deloitte, who already partnered with Tech’s accounting program, was interested the potential partnership with GSU and agreed to underwrite it.

Once students are accepted into the concurrent program, Deloitte pays for their Tech tuition. When they graduate from GSU, if they’ve maintained the proper GPA in the Tech classes, they apply for full admission into the master’s program, and Deloitte continues to cover their tuition throughout.

Students also become graduate assistants on the company’s dime, working usually one-on-one with faculty members to conduct research in the field.

“This gives them the mentoring and the skillset to do very well when they enter the market,” Martin said.

Concurrent MAcc students often receive jobs from Deloitte upon graduation but are not obligated to do so.

So far two students from this pathway have graduated with their master’s degrees from Tech. Both now have jobs at Deloitte. Five are in the program now, and another wave will arrive in the fall.

Sonelle Casimir is on the cusp of completing the program and graduating in the spring. She graduated last spring with her undergraduate degree from GSU after starting the concurrent program the previous winter.

“What has been most enjoyable is getting to know my classmates,” Casimir said. “We have formed a supportive community where we can exchange ideas and help each other out.”

As an international student and first-generation college student, Casimir said the program has helped her break barriers and pave the way for others to follow.

Jennette, meanwhile, said she’s thankful she found this program that allowed her to circumvent the financial barrier that may otherwise have stopped her from pursuing this career.

“Initiatives like these are essential for students like myself who come from backgrounds where resources are often out of reach,” Jennette said. “I view programs like these as evidence of firms like Deloitte acknowledging and addressing issues within specific communities, utilizing their platform for positive change.”

Martin said the College of Business has begun exploring the possibility of developing a similar program with its MBA degree, but it will all depend on the financial support to get there.

“Several other schools are trying to replicate this program around the country,” he said. “It’s just a win-win for the students, the universities and the accounting field in general.”