When the TFE Times released its 2020 report on the best graduate accounting programs in the country in January, faculty and students in the Leventhal School of Accounting were unsurprised that USC came in first.
TFE Times, a popular academia site that publishes university rankings each January, bases rankings on factors such as mean GMAT scores, starting salary of graduates and acceptance rate.
Leventhal Dean William Holder said the ranking reflects the school’s hardworking students and faculty and their commitment to excellence.
“One of the things you learn when you get in a position like mine is how many people it takes dedicated to a common proposition to achieve much of anything,” Holder said. “We’re so fortunate to have that here.”
Students in Leventhal’s graduate programs said that the ranking is well-deserved. Sandy Situ, a senior majoring in accounting while pursuing a master’s degree in business taxation, said Leventhal’s commitment to connecting with students even after graduation keeps the school up to par with what accounting firms are looking for in new recruits.
“Leventhal consults with the Big Four accounting firms,” Situ said. “They have student representatives who have gone there, who started working, and they come back every year, and they have some sort of a meeting or conference just to update their curriculum.”
Other graduate students echoed this sentiment, adding that the professors in Leventhal often go above and beyond the call of duty by meeting with students outside of office hours or keeping in touch as friends even after the end of the semester.
John Owens, the academic director of the master’s in accounting with data and analytics and a professor of the practice at Marshall School of Business, said that professors take particular personal interest in their students at Leventhal, which fosters a more open learning environment.
“A common phrase you hear in classes at Leventhal is that we teach students to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” Owens said. “And we want them to really be out there learning to be leading edge thinkers and to be the ideal people for their companies a few years down the road when they come out.”
Juliette Smotrys, a graduate student studying business taxation, also said faculty in Leventhal are particularly helpful and constantly encourage her and other students to do their best work by introducing them to new skill sets to help with their research as future tax professionals.
“We have such a wonderful set of professors and staff that really do help us to succeed and give us all the resources necessary to really propel us forward in our careers,” Smotrys said.
Michael Leong, a graduate student studying accounting, said accounting classes at other universities cannot compare to those offered by Leventhal.
“I’m very happy and content with all the professors that I’ve met and the knowledge that I’ve gained from each of the classes,” Leong said. “I think that a lot of the classes that I was offered here would definitely not be offered at other universities or even at my undergraduate institution.”
Owens echoed these sentiments, stating that Leventhal has unparalleled access to leaders in business that few other schools can compare to.
“I regularly have the CFOs of Disney and Amgen and Netflix and Capital Group and others come to my classes, and those people are highly interactive with the classes,” Owens said.
Leventhal also offers a high caliber of financial support from its alumni, something Holder said has helped build its positive reputation over the 41 years since the school was established in Marshall.
“We know we could not be nearly as successful in recruiting students and in delivering the educational experience [without our alumni],” Holder said. “Those alums have been extraordinarily generous in endowing scholarships. They’ve also been very generous in endowing chairs and professorships for our faculty. Those are absolutely essential to recruiting world class faculty.”
Leventhal offers full-time master’s programs in accounting, business taxation and accounting with an emphasis on data analytics. Starting Fall 2020, the school will also offer business taxation with an emphasis on data analytics, a program that Associate Dean for Leventhal’s Graduate Accounting Programs Shirley Maxey called cutting-edge.
“Moving to these new elements, the school has, in the last five years, attracted some amazing academics who are known throughout the educational and professional communities,” Maxey said. “That helps us stay on top of what’s happening.”
Holder and Maxey both expressed hope that Leventhal will continue to reflect its No. 1 ranking through the excellence of its students and faculty members.
“It’s nice to see [the rankings], and it’s rewarding to see them,” Holder said. “It conveys to us that we seem to be on the right track, and it makes us have even loftier aspirations for the future.”