ACCY Duo on Fast Track for Big Four Leadership

Published on June 29, 2010

Top Accounting Firms Enrich Leadership Experience for Bauer Students

Vania Arevalo, an accounting junior, will represent UH Bauer at KPMG’s leadership program in July. She credits her success to the support she’s received from faculty, staff and fellow students at the college.

Two students from the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business will spend a week in California next month on the fast track to leadership with a Big Four accounting firm, through KPMG’s Fast Forward National Leadership Program.

Accounting juniors Vania Arevalo and Melissa Hernandez were selected to represent UH Bauer with over 100 top students from schools across the country at the elite program that aims to teach students leadership skills and to educate them on opportunities in public accounting.

Both Arevalo and Hernandez learned about the opportunity at the Spring 2010 Business Career Fair hosted by the college’s Rockwell Career Center and impressed recruiters with their combination of academic achievement, ambition and motivation to develop as leaders.

“Students selected for Fast Forward were handpicked because they exhibited KPMG’s core values to our campus recruiting professionals,” said Stacy Sturgeon, national managing partner for university relations and recruiting. “They are true leaders in their schools and communities.”

Special programs and student organizations at UH Bauer gave both candidates an edge over other applicants — Arevalo is managing director of the college’s Hispanic Business Student Association, while Hernandez is HBSA vice president and a member of the Professional Program in Accountancy (PPA) and Bauer Business Honors.

Accounting junior Melissa Hernandez, second from right, will also be heading to KPMG’s Fast Forward National Leadership Program in July after she completes an internship with the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C. Before leaving for her internship, she and other student leaders at UH Bauer renovated the Barrio Center in Houston.

“Being an Honors College student has given me the chance to broaden my accounting studies as a business major with a strong liberal arts component,” said Hernandez, who is also pursuing a minor in Mexican American studies. “I also think my leadership experience made me stand out from other candidates. Being an officer in a student organization teaches you about balancing school and extracurricular activities, along with professionalism, communication and organizational skills.”

She put what she’s learned so far about leadership into action during the spring semester, when she and representatives from other student organizations at UH Bauer joined forces with PricewaterhouseCoopers employees to renovate the Barrio Center, an afterschool program for underprivileged youth in the Houston area.

The project was funded through PwC’s “Project Make [it] count,” a national corporate responsibility competition that encourages college students to make a positive change for the world around them – Hernandez and members of six student organizations took on the challenge with a proposal to enhance the Barrio Center and were one of 20 winning teams across the United States to win funding to execute their vision.

“We completely renovated the facility, from painting to new flooring and implementing a few new safety measures,” Hernandez said. “I have a true passion for helping my community because I have been given the opportunity to attend college.”

Arevalo agreed, crediting her acceptance into the KPMG program to all the opportunities she’s been afforded as a student at UH Bauer. “I’ve learned so much from my professors, and the resources we have on campus have given me all the support I need,” she said. “I would also encourage all students to join an organization. It will give you the leadership experience that top companies are looking for in applicants.”

During the three-day program, Arevalo and Hernandez will hear from KPMG national leaders on how leadership skills have played a significant role in their careers. Another key component of the program is taking leadership theory and framing it with a real-world perspective.

Both students are getting some of that real-world experience before the KPMG program with summer internships — Arevalo with Ernst &Young in Houston and Hernandez with the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C.

After completing the KPMG Fast Forward National Leadership Program and graduating from UH Bauer with BBAs in accounting, Hernandez and Arevalo have both expressed interest in using the leadership skills they’ve developed to benefit others.

“I have a lot of pride in this university,” Hernandez said. “This is where I’ve developed into a leader and a young professional, with the help of fellow students and professors who have all taken a great interest in seeing me succeed. I want to learn how to inspire others to become leaders, as well.”

By Jessica Navarro