When students in Vanderbilt’s one-year programs—the master of accountancy, master of finance, and master of accountancy valuation—graduate, they don’t just enter the workforce with business skills and expertise in accounting, accounting valuation or finance—they also leave with powerful leadership skills.
To prepare for what awaits in a rapidly changing workforce, students participate in Owen’s Leadership Development Program, which provides robust assessments of their strengths and weaknesses plus sessions with an independent, certified executive coach.
“We would like to differentiate our program by seeing it not just providing skills for your first job, but providing you with skills that will last over the course of your career,” says Kate Barraclough, the MS Finance program director.
Part of that success requires being able to lead projects, people or both, regardless of job title. Already, master’s program graduates are demonstrating that they have the skills needed to make a difference in the workplace.
Karl Hackenbrack, associate dean and director of accountancy, points to Amelia Emmert, MAcc’08, who was just promoted to manager at EY—the first MAcc graduate to do so. He believes she will quickly be joined by others. “Her class is the first one to have the tenure to earn the rank of manager,” Hackenbrack says. “No one will ever question her technical, teaming or managerial skills. She’s proven them to earn the position of manager. I see leadership potential in all students or they wouldn’t be in the program.”
In the international public accounting firms, recent hires have an opportunity to showcase skills at the earliest stages of their career.
“Someone has to do the blocking and tackling,” Hackenbrack says of new public accounting hires. “The willingness to be a contributing member of a larger team and knowing your place within that larger team is extremely important.”
“Who is going to do that the next year? That year’s new hire. That’s where the traditional definition of leadership kicks in with public accounting: You’ll never do this task again. You’ll train someone to do the task that you did last go-round. These teams are structured so that an important part of your job is training the person coming in behind you.”
It’s apparent in the workplace that Vanderbilt MAcc graduates possess those abilities. Hackenbrack recounts a story told to him by a student whose father is a partner at a Big Four firm. She said that during her internship, she could recognize other Vanderbilt MAcc alums by the way they acted on the job.
Vanderbilt MAcc alumni, Hackenbrack notes, are characterized by their professionalism, strong client and team skills and maturity. “The career development program is recognizable in the workplace,” Hackenbrack says. “I’m sure some of that is recruiting the right people in the first place, but a lot has to do with the professional development programming that occurs on campus.”
A world of possibilities
Barraclough says that the leadership and career development work for Vanderbilt MS Finance students includes building skills that can be applied to jobs in different facets in the industry. “With MS Finance, we’re helping them identify what they want to do and what makes it a good career choice,” Barraclough says of the intensive nine-month program. “We help them understand who they are as professionals and how knowing their strengths helps them be more effective and successful as team members and as leaders in the workplace.”
An individualized approach runs throughout Owen’s Leadership Development Program, no matter the degree, says Amy Lambert, MBA’04, senior manager of the program. Lambert works with students in the young professional tracks directly.
“The way that we have approached leadership development at Owen in general has been to meet each student where they are as an individual, no matter where they are in their career path,” Lambert says. “Regardless of where they are headed, we help them capture the building blocks to start working toward to that long-term future.”