Graduate Business Students Diversify Academic Acumen During W&M MAcc Program Experience

Like many accounting majors, Nicholas Mazzella, MAcc ’21 never questioned if he would apply to a graduate accounting program after completing his bachelor’s degree. The question was more so which school would align best with his academic and career goals.

Last spring, Mazzella was nearly done with his classes as a Wake Forest University undergraduate student when he added William & Mary’s Master of Accounting (MAcc) program to his short list of graduate schools.

Wake Forest had already extended him admission into its accounting program and the New Jersey native was also planning to apply to Montclair State University as a local option closer to home. But after learning more about the research opportunities available through the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, Mazzella decided to relocate to Williamsburg.

“When it came down to it, I chose William & Mary because it provided a lot of options to branch out and explore potential interests, including research in the field. It was also a nice change of scenery,” he said. “Even though it’s a state university, it attracts students from all over the country and the world, and I liked being able to interact with peers who have different backgrounds and experiences.”

Diversifying His Academic Background

Mazzella attended the Mason School MAcc program through a hybrid learning option offered by the university due to the pandemic. He attends half of his classes virtually from his apartment near campus, and the other half are in-person at Miller Hall.

“Even though everything wasn’t completely in-person, I think the quality of learning has been very high,” he said. “The online portion is very to the point and the student council facilitates virtual activities to encourage us to interact with and get to know our classmates. I’ve created some long-lasting friendships.”

Mazzella feels the quality of education he’s received through the MAcc program can be attributed to the school’s highly-ranked faculty who share their expertise with students both inside and out of the classroom.

“They have a lot of real-life experience between their academic and professional credentials, and the different types of research they’re doing. Learning from them has made me more articulate regarding the basic accounting concepts I learned in undergrad,” he said.

Dr. Denise Jones was particularly influential for Mazzella during his time at the Mason School. He completed a graduate assistantship under Dr. Jones’ guidance and was able to parlay that research work into a full-time job with EY in New York City upon graduation.

“The research I did for her prepared me for the work I’ll be doing next year as part of a one-year research-focused rotation role within audit. The interviewers from EY really liked that in addition to the work I did as a part of the curriculum, I also worked on research that has real-life value since it contributed to the International Accounting Standards Board decision-making process,” he explained.

Discovering His Professional Niche

Though he is on a clear-cut path in accounting now, Mazzella originally majored in finance as an undergrad with sights on a career on Wall Street in wealth management or investment banking.

“I went to several information sessions my sophomore and junior year and found that the recruiting process and the lifestyle were a little too intense for my personality,” he said. “I wanted to pursue a career in business that provided a better work-life balance and job stability.”

Mazzella switched to accounting and double majored in German which afforded him the ability to study abroad in Vienna, Austria for a semester. Participating in the study abroad program encouraged him to seek out a summer internship with EY in Frankfurt, Germany.

“I was able to combine my German-language skills with my accounting studies into one specific experience working in tax,” he explained.

Afterwards, the Big Four firm offered him a winter internship back in the States, and then a full-time job upon completing the MAcc program.

“I interned in audit in their Manhattan office. Now because of the MAcc program, I’ve been able to strengthen and fine-tune some areas academically which has allowed me to switch gears into a research role which is really exciting,” he said.

As May commencement draws closer, Mazzella is confident that whatever the future holds, his William & Mary experience will allow him to pursue opportunities within the field of accounting that align with his personal and professional goals.

“This last year has taught me that everything is so unpredictable. I’m excited to get my feet wet in auditing as a way to get to know the industry better,” he said. “Eventually I want to start my own business using the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired. It’s reassuring to know I will have the acumen to get it started and run it efficiently.”