John D’Ippolito was on vacation in August when he heard about an opportunity at Villanova School of Business from a reliable source: his mom. D’Ippolito’s mother spotted a notice on Facebook announcing Villanova’s first-of-its-kind partnership with audit, tax, and advisory services giant KPMG and the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business to launch a master’s degree program in accounting with data and analytics. Accepted students would have their tuition, room, and board covered by KPMG, where they would work upon graduation.
D’Ippolito’s mother encouraged him to apply — after all, Villanova is where D’Ippolito is currently studying for his undergraduate degree in accounting. Before hearing about the KPMG program, he says, he wasn’t sure about pursuing a master’s degree — but he and his mother agreed the sponsorship by KPMG made the opportunity too appealing to pass up.
Several months later, Villanova and OSU professors are working hard with KPMG representatives to nail down the perfect curriculum, and the inaugural class has been admitted — with D’Ippolito in their ranks.
THE INAUGURAL CLASS: HARD WORKERS WITH DESIRE FOR SELF-IMPROVEMENT
The KPMG Master of Accounting will be a one-year program that gives students access to KPMG data and tools to supplement their classes. Between the fall and summer semesters they’ll also complete a spring internship at KPMG.
Fifty students were accepted to the program, with about half going to each school. Most are former KPMG interns, and Roger O’Donnell, a KPMG partner who is involved with the program, says the admission process began with the firm. They read the applications and conducted interviews, then sent a shortlist to the schools.
“We had an internal screening process that we went through first,” O’Donnell says. “We wanted to make sure that we would be comfortable with any student going into the program as a future employee at KPMG.”
Possibly because it was the first year, when D’Ippolito applied, the process was condensed — the program was announced in August, and applications were due the next month. He sent in a cover letter, resume, and answers to several short answers to questions like, “Why this program?” “Why technology?” and “Why auditing?” After several rounds and a phone interview, he was accepted.
O’Donnell says all the applicants came from undergraduate accounting programs, and all had taken some statistics courses. But other than that, they all had varied backgrounds — some were athletes, some were employed all through college. “The takeaway was that this was a hard-working group of students were were talented academically, and had a desire to improve themselves,” O’Donnell says.
The 26 students accepted to the Villanova program hail from 19 different states and 26 different schools, including Florida State, Michigan State, Ohio State, the University of Arizona, the University of Maryland College Park, the University of Southern California, and the University of Nebraska.
CORPORATE AND ACADEMIA LEARNING FROM EACH OTHER
Even with the admissions process complete, there’s still prep work to do before the inaugural class arrives in Fall 2017. At the moment, KPMG is working with professors from the two universities, training them to use firm-specific tools.
Villanova professors won’t be teaching the students to use KPMG analytical tools, says Villanova Dean Joyce Russell. People from KPMG will come in to do that. But, she adds, it’s still important for professors to be familiar with everything so they can weave it into their classes.
“I’ve created a task force from our end, with two of our accounting teachers and two of our analytics teachers,” Russell says. “That task force has been working closely with KPMG to talk through what the nature of the program is and how it will be taught.”
O’Donnell says KPMG has been taking faculty through the same training programs they send their own people through, including several Q&A sessions. But for the most part, he adds, the universities will control the curriculum.