Alex Villanueva

Class of 2012

Hometown: Ceiba, Puerto Rico
Undergraduate University: William & Mary
Class Year: 2011
Major/Minor: Finance w/ Entrepreneurship Concentration
Employer: Boyne Capital
Position: Vice President

Why William & Mary?

William & Mary made sense for a number of reasons, though I was heavily biased as my older sister was a William & Mary alum. Throughout high school, I was afforded the opportunity to visit the campus numerous times and to witness the culture and diverse student body for myself. Through my sister's experience, I also understood the academic rigor and high expectations of the university's undergraduate programs, as well as the school's reputation in the workforce post-graduation.

What led to your decision to stay for the MAcc program?

Prior to the MAcc program, I had never contemplated accounting as a career path. Embarrassing as it may be, I learned almost everything I knew about public accounting, auditing, the Big 4, etc., from campus recruiting during the MAcc program itself. I graduated with my finance degree in 3 years and aspired to start my own business immediately after graduation. While my friends and classmates were actively recruiting and receiving offer letters, I was working on my business plan. About two months prior to graduation, however, I started doubting my ability to start my own business, and I began thinking about ways to better prepare myself to eventually launch my startup. I researched additional schooling and credentials which might prepare me to better manage a business's finances and to evaluate the overall financial health of an organization. Ultimately, I decided that earning the CPA designation would serve me well in a startup environment and would help me gain credibility with investors, lenders, customers, etc. In need of additional credits and preparation to sit for the CPA exam, I turned to the year-long William & Mary MAcc program.

What were some highlights of your MAcc experience?

I really enjoyed the program's diversity, specifically the diversity of work and life experiences in my MAcc class. My cohort was comprised of recent graduates, military veterans, ex-attorneys, mothers, fathers, etc. My undergraduate student body was more homogenous in that most of us had come straight from high school, so it was eye-opening to hear real-life stories from some of my more experienced MAcc classmates. They helped highlight the practical, real-world applications of the concepts we were learning, and it was interesting to hear about how various students would approach the same problem based on their past experiences. I would be remiss without noting the other highlight of my MAcc experience: the faculty. Professor Foster, specifically, always provided me with sound advice both inside and outside of class with respect to careers and which paths we might be better suited towards. She was always realistic in her guidance and did not sugarcoat her practical feedback, which would serve me well in the future. I have stayed in turn with Professor Foster and, to this day, still, solicit and respect her feedback and advice regarding my career choices. The faculty of the MAcc program truly care—you are not simply a number to them.

Did the MAcc program prepare you to sit for the CPA?

I felt that the program was indirectly tailored around the CPA exam. Candidly speaking, the MAcc program is not a prep course for the CPA exam, and it is not a submitted for Becker or other similar programs. That said, it provides students with a broader exposure to finance and accounting concepts that are more applicable to the real world. The MAcc program does cover many topics tested on the CPA exam, but it does so in a more practical way that prepares students for a career as opposed to simply a test. After graduation, I used the Becker system and was able to pass the CPA exam with no issues—almost everything that was tested on the exam was, at some point or another, discussed or taught during the MAcc program.

What career support did you receive from the Mason School and the MAcc program?

Campus recruitment was an intense but highly-beneficial experience. I was able to meet the Big 4 accounting firms in intimate settings, and while it was not my original intent to pursue a career in public accounting when I began the MAcc program, I did ultimately accept a job offer with EY. Campus recruiting also highlighted the value of William & Mary's reputation among both national and regional employers.

How are you applying your MAcc degree to what you're doing now, professionally?

The MAcc degree prepared me for an accounting/CPA path which has afforded me countless opportunities since graduation. I have had a successful career path that includes positions in public accounting, corporate mergers & acquisitions, entrepreneurship and startup, and currently in private equity. It is worth pausing to acknowledge that, contrary to popular sentiment, the MAcc program prepares you for a whole lot more than just public accounting. The concepts you learn during the MAcc program and the early years of public accounting build a strong foundation for a plethora of financial career paths. This is not merely lip service. Anecdotally, the vast majority of MAcc students I know left public accounting prior to their third year in pursuit of other finance careers. I myself only lasted two years. But in any case, I can confidently say that the William & Mary MAcc program opened many doors for me and for my classmates, many of whom are enjoying successful careers across public accounting, internal audit, investment banking, and commercial lending, and many of whom now hold titles as directors of finance or accounting.



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