Boot Camp Eases Transition for Non-Accounting MAcc Students

Jordan Secrist, MAcc ’21 first learned about accounting as an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia. The economics major was introduced to the field through a relative, and after completing a summer internship with PBMares in his hometown of Harrisonburg, Virginia, Secrist was hooked.

“I loved the service that we provided to people and the odd satisfaction I had when I completed a tax return knowing that I contributed to either somebody saving money or lightening their tax burden in some way,” he explained.

Though Secrist took as many accounting courses as his schedule would allow as an economics major, he knew it wasn’t enough to transition directly into a graduate-level accounting program. He discovered the Master of Accounting (MAcc) program at William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business offered a summer boot camp through which he could gain the requisite skills and knowledge he would need to be successful in graduate school.

“William & Mary’s boot camp was a major pull and drove my decision to apply to this program. It helped me to successfully transition from an undergraduate student to graduate school,” he said.

Upholding the Values of Accounting

Secrist grew up in rural Virginia, and credits the economic impacts of the Great Recession on his family and community for sparking his interest in money and finance.

“I’ve always had an interest in learning how people can better take care of their money. That’s what prompted me to go into economics and understand the macroeconomy as a whole,” he said.

Through his three summer internships with PBMares, Secrist learned more about how accountants can have a tangible impact on people at a personal level. That mission, coupled with the values upheld by the profession, are what attracted Secrist to accounting and ultimately solidified his decision to pursue it in graduate school.

“Accounting was widely seen as something that took a lot of integrity and honesty, especially back when it was more of a self-regulated industry,” he explained. “Honesty and integrity are central tenants to how I was raised and my Christian faith. They were ingrained in me throughout my life and as a result accounting really appealed to me.”

Secrist liked the Mason School from an academic standpoint because the summer boot camp would afford him the opportunity to bridge the knowledge gap as a non-accounting major, but the program was even more attractive after he learned about the William & Mary honor code.

“It aligned with the core values I’ve sought to uphold throughout my education, my personal life, and now my professional career,” he said.

Learning the Language of Business

A highlight for Secrist during his MAcc experience has been the team-oriented activities. The program is marketed as being highly-collaborative and though classes were moved online in response to COVID-19, he says it has delivered on that promise.

“We were placed into teams at the beginning of the semester and we’ve worked closely ever since on various assignments in different classes. Collaborative problem-solving is a big part of this experience – moreso than what a typical undergraduate education provides you – and is something I will use moving forward,” he said.

Through the program, Secrist says he’s learned how to better analyze situations, and he’s honed his critical thinking and communication skills. He also cites the program’s expert faculty and course material as other highlights of the Mason School MAcc experience.

“All of the professors are knowledgable and eager to help. They communicate very well with the students and among each other to ensure our assignments are spaced evenly apart to set us up for success,” he said. “Graduate school promotes a different type of thinking and the things I’ve learned here are really applicable to what I will be doing in my career moving forward.”

Upon graduation, Secrist will relocate to Newport News and work as a Tax Staff Accountant in the PBMares office. His goals include passing the CPA exam, and potentially pursuing his Certified Financial Planner license as well as furthering his education related to investing and wealth management.

“Ultimately, I want to be as helpful as I can to as many people as possible because that is what really matters to me,” he said.