The accounting education Minnie Chiu received at St. Francis College proved to be a launch pad to the global lifestyle she craved.
After moving to the United States from China as a teenager, Minnie graduated from high school in Boston. She then joined her parents in New York City, where she attended Baruch College, earning a BS in Accounting.
Minnie began exploring stand-alone MS Accounting programs primarily to earn the academic credits required to take the CPA exam. She wanted a small program where she could have personal interaction with her professors. Those two criteria converged at St. Francis College.
After earning her degree in 2017, Minnie accepted a full-time job offer from KPMG. Along with PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), EY (Ernst & Young), and Deloitte, KPMG is one of the world's largest accounting firms, known collectively as the Big Four. Jobs at Big Four firms are considered from the industry's most prestigious, and St. Francis College has a long track record placing its graduates in positions there.
After working for one year in KPMG's New York City office, Minnie is now on a rotation assignment working in the firm's London office, fulfilling a dream to travel and see the world while pursuing a fulfilling accounting career.
Minnie reflected on her St. Francis College education and her professional path after.
How did you choose St. Francis College?
I graduated with my bachelor's degree in accounting in 2010 from one of the most well-known accounting programs in New York City, right after the recession. I worked in another industry for a couple of years before I decided to go back to accounting. I wanted to pursue a master's degree so I could get enough credits to take the CPA exam.
I started to look for schools that offered a MS program. There weren't a lot of them. I knew for a fact that big schools are not for me based on my undergraduate experience. A friend introduced me to St. Francis College. I reached out to a professor there who connected me to Dr. [Geoffrey] Horlick, [retired Chair of the Department of Accounting & Business Law and former Program Director of the MS Program in Accounting]. We talked about my vision of pursuing an MS degree. Luckily, I got in.
Why was a smaller school so important to you?
The biggest difference between big schools and St. Francis College – and the main reason why I chose not to pick a big school – is there are just too many students and it was difficult for students to seek for assistance and advice for their studies and/or career opportunities. The biggest class I attended in my undergraduate school was about 300 students (typical lecture hall). The smallest class was more than 50 students. Most of the professors were part-time. They tended to come to class at night, teach and leave. We didn't have too much access to them when we needed help.
A big advantage and benefit provided by St. Francis College is the small class size (the largest being 30 students) which allows professors to focus on each individual student's ability and need. You may think it does not matter, but I am pleasure that all the accounting professors know my name and I can guarantee you they know all the students' names. The professors were very passionate about teaching and guiding students' careers. I got to talk to my professors a lot, within class or outside it. That made me really love the program. SFC is like a community that everyone gets to know each other and helps out each other (including alumni) that is very important to me and I have never experienced coming from a big school.
How did St. Francis College help in your job hunt?
The Career Center is very helpful. Naomi Kinley [SFC Career Center Director] and her team really work to land students in internships and jobs.
We also have a lot of passionate alumni in the Big Fours. They came back to help students with their resumes, host talks, do mock interviews. That was how I got the opportunity to interview at a couple of the Big Four firms. They inspired me to reconnect with Alumni from different groups within my firm (KPMG) to share our experiences which further helps me to build my professional network. They also inspired me to give back to SFC by helping students however I am capable for.
The first internship I got during the MS program was at KPMG, over the summer. I went to work full-time at KPMG after earning my MS. I've been here ever since.
How did you wind up in London?
Two years ago, my fiancé, who is also an SFC alumni and works in PwC, and I really wanted to go out into the world. We decided to move out of New York, where we grew up, to the other side of the world – London, where we can continue our professional career path while exploring Europe. We both love travelling.
I had been working at KPMG about one year at that time. I reached out to see if I had an opportunity to be relocated to the London office specifically. I found out KPMG London has a U.S. Tax desk there. I appreciated KPMG provides employees global mobility opportunities to gain international/diverse working experiences as to progress their career to the next level. In London office, we provide Europe based clients with U.S. tax compliance and consulting services.
How does your SFC education stack up against that of your colleagues from other programs?
I think SFC students are very strong and competitive. In my class of 2017, four graduates started their career at KPMG, while approximately four to six accepted their offers from the other Big Four firms. Considered there were only about 30 accounting graduates in my class, and at least half of us landed a job in Big Fours or mid-size accounting firms. That's a really big number!
SFC's accounting program plays an important role preparing students facing challenges in the professional working environment.
What do you say to someone considering enrolling in SFC's MS accounting program?
St. Francis College the Small School of Big Dreams. That's completely true. It's a small school, and everyone is very passionate about helping students to pursue their own dreams/goals. I set the goal to myself before coming to SFC to become a Certified Publican Accountant ("CPA") and work in one the Big Four firms. And I DID IT with the all the generous help from professors, faculties and students of SFC's MS accounting program.
The accounting professors are really knowledgeable and helpful. Dr. Horlick was known for his very high standards, but I really loved his lectures and how he set high bars for his students. There is a saying that if you survived Dr. Horlick, you'll survive your career. Until today, every time I see accounting amount without a thousand separator, I couldn't hold myself to change it because that's how Dr. Horlick used to teach us. He told us regardless the outcome (final answer) is correct or not, the presentation of your work determines your level of professionalism. I received many compliments and appreciation of my neat and "pretty" workpapers from colleagues. Thanks to Dr. Horlick!
Courses designed for the SFC MS program prepared me for my CPA exam. I started studying and taking the exams in my last semester of SFC. By the time I started my full-time position at KPMG, I already had passed three of the four exams. Today I am a CPA and a Senior Tax Associate at KPMG. I have fulfilled my Big Dream through St. Francis College.