Student Stories

There’s strength in knowing your numbers. If you want to make better data-driven decisions or become a CPA, an MS in Accounting is a career game-changer. Learn what it’s like to get an MSA online from a top accounting program from these student stories.

Student Stories

There’s strength in knowing your numbers. If you want to make better data-driven decisions or become a CPA, an MS in Accounting is a career game-changer. Learn what it’s like to get an MSA online from a top accounting program from these student stories.

Melanie Baricante

Principal in a small Philippine accounting firm: Getting my US CPA

“I own and manage a small accounting firm with a client base mainly from the US. For this reason, I decided that acquiring a US CPA license would be a great advantage in addition to my Philippine CPA license. I needed a master’s degree to meet the education requirements of the designation. What initially attracted me to the Gies iMSA was the University of Illinois’ reputation as a top-notch university for accountancy. I also liked what I saw in terms of the student and academic culture. My enrollment to the program coincided with the start of my CPA exams. So, all throughout my CPA endeavor, the iMSA became my consistent and reliable ally. It proved to be a very successful partnership.”
“I like the Gies iMSA group assignments in each course. It creates a different dynamic from the class interaction. Meeting and collaborating with new people belonging to different and varied backgrounds while trying to solve a common problem is a rewarding experience. I think online classes still need that kind of interaction where you build relationships outside the virtual classroom. I value those relationships. It’s about the commonality and being able to participate in a shared experience with the people you’re having the same journey.

Melanie Baricante

Principal in a small Philippine accounting firm: Getting my US CPA

“I own and manage a small accounting firm with a client base mainly from the US. For this reason, I decided that acquiring a US CPA license would be a great advantage in addition to my Philippine CPA license. I needed a master’s degree to meet the education requirements of the designation. What initially attracted me to the Gies iMSA was the University of Illinois’ reputation as a top-notch university for accountancy. I also liked what I saw in terms of the student and academic culture. My enrollment to the program coincided with the start of my CPA exams. So, all throughout my CPA endeavor, the iMSA became my consistent and reliable ally. It proved to be a very successful partnership.”
“I like the Gies iMSA group assignments in each course. It creates a different dynamic from the class interaction. Meeting and collaborating with new people belonging to different and varied backgrounds while trying to solve a common problem is a rewarding experience. I think online classes still need that kind of interaction where you build relationships outside the virtual classroom. I value those relationships. It’s about the commonality and being able to participate in a shared experience with the people you’re having the same journey.

Rob van den Blink

Non-Executive Director: It’s the language of business

“The Gies iMSA has given me a level of confidence I never had before to talk about the numbers. In management meetings, board of directors meetings or just discussions with executives, it always comes down to accounting. In addition, I’m an angel investor and have also sought investment in the course of my career. I’ve often said, if you’re going to invest would you rather give to the person with an accounting degree or the one without an accounting degree?”
“My previous experience with online was never bad –but it was never so personal and engaging as what I’m experiencing now in the Gies iMSA. One thing I can’t rave enough about is interaction with professors. All the professors have been extremely kind, extremely responsive—and knowledgeable. It’s a very complete program. There’s magic going on.”

Rob van den Blink

Non-Executive Director: It’s the language of business

“The Gies iMSA has given me a level of confidence I never had before to talk about the numbers. In management meetings, board of directors meetings or just discussions with executives, it always comes down to accounting. In addition, I’m an angel investor and have also sought investment in the course of my career. I’ve often said, if you’re going to invest would you rather give to the person with an accounting degree or the one without an accounting degree?”
“My previous experience with online was never bad –but it was never so personal and engaging as what I’m experiencing now in the Gies iMSA. One thing I can’t rave enough about is interaction with professors. All the professors have been extremely kind, extremely responsive—and knowledgeable. It’s a very complete program. There’s magic going on.”

Becky Hanrahan

University advancement director: Speaking the language of business

“Advancement is very numbers-driven and relationship oriented. It is essential to effectively communicate with both donors and accountants to make sure donations are applied as intended. Accountants speak a different language. I would review the general ledger and journal entries to advocate for the donor’s gift intentions. Accountants and auditors would use words that I wasn’t familiar with—but I knew they translated into my field and I knew we could find a win-win if we simply took time to understand each other. With the Gies iMSA, I can now speak that language, I can advocate better for donors –which benefits the organizations for which I work -and what I have learned is valuable to others. I can share those experiences with my team to support their professional growth as advancement officers.”
“I have two kids. I work a lot of hours. It’s logical to ask whether this is doable. The answer is yes. The Gies iMSA program tees you up to be successful. I think it’s important to note that the professors acknowledge things that are happening in the world and in your personal life. Classmates are willing to answer questions and work with you. There was no competition. You’re never alone. You know, it’s hard to get people to understand how great the program is. It’s almost too good to be true. It’s amazing.”

Becky Hanrahan

University advancement director: Speaking the language of business

“Advancement is very numbers-driven and relationship oriented. It is essential to effectively communicate with both donors and accountants to make sure donations are applied as intended. Accountants speak a different language. I would review the general ledger and journal entries to advocate for the donor’s gift intentions. Accountants and auditors would use words that I wasn’t familiar with—but I knew they translated into my field and I knew we could find a win-win if we simply took time to understand each other. With the Gies iMSA, I can now speak that language, I can advocate better for donors –which benefits the organizations for which I work -and what I have learned is valuable to others. I can share those experiences with my team to support their professional growth as advancement officers.”
“I have two kids. I work a lot of hours. It’s logical to ask whether this is doable. The answer is yes. The Gies iMSA program tees you up to be successful. I think it’s important to note that the professors acknowledge things that are happening in the world and in your personal life. Classmates are willing to answer questions and work with you. There was no competition. You’re never alone. You know, it’s hard to get people to understand how great the program is. It’s almost too good to be true. It’s amazing.”

Dustin Funk

Engineer: Diversifying skills

“I was looking to diversify my background. There were layoffs at my company and I was thinking if I were to get laid off what would I fall back on. There are other reasons too. I work in a large corporation. As an engineer, you can get lost in the decisions being made. Now I can understand more of the forces we have to deal with in a large organization. It also helps me better measure capacity of the team I lead. It helps me in the budgeting process. I got a promotion soon after I graduated from the Gies iMSA and I think the degree is one of the reasons why.”
“I have a wife and four kids. The kids are in elementary school. So I have a full-time job and a family as well. The flexibility of the Gies iMSA is what I really needed. If that wasn’t there, it’d be extremely stressful. But do be able to do the work on my own time, knowing that if I missed aclass I could make it up, and knowing that there were flexible office hours when I could talk to a professor, those kinds of things all add up. The iMSA just kind of fit my life.”

Dustin Funk

Engineer: Diversifying skills

“I was looking to diversify my background. There were layoffs at my company and I was thinking if I were to get laid off what would I fall back on. There are other reasons too. I work in a large corporation. As an engineer, you can get lost in the decisions being made. Now I can understand more of the forces we have to deal with in a large organization. It also helps me better measure capacity of the team I lead. It helps me in the budgeting process. I got a promotion soon after I graduated from the Gies iMSA and I think the degree is one of the reasons why.”
“I have a wife and four kids. The kids are in elementary school. So I have a full-time job and a family as well. The flexibility of the Gies iMSA is what I really needed. If that wasn’t there, it’d be extremely stressful. But do be able to do the work on my own time, knowing that if I missed aclass I could make it up, and knowing that there were flexible office hours when I could talk to a professor, those kinds of things all add up. The iMSA just kind of fit my life.”