As classes get underway for the 2015-16 school year, UIC Business students get to work both on their studies and on a variety of involvements at UIC and in the Chicago business community. Last Thursday, we caught up with Shirley Paredes, an undergraduate student in the accounting department. Shirley was recently awarded the ICPAS Accounting Scholarship, which is funded by donations made to the CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois, the society’s charitable partner. The CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois annually awards $165,000 in scholarships and training programs to over 100 accounting students across the state of Illinois.
You spoke last night for an audience of accountants at the Illinois CPA Society’s Midwest Accounting & Finance Showcase. What did you talk about?
I spoke about my background and the circumstances that created a need for the scholarship, and I discussed my future with the Society as the 2015-2016 ICPAS student ambassador at UIC. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to meet some ICPAS board members, all of whom recognized me right away as a scholarship recipient.
And hopefully they will continue to recognize you as a colleague and peer.
Yes, I hope so, it was a great networking event. I bumped into old acquaintances as well. The board members enjoyed speaking with a current accounting student, and it was good for me to learn about their professional involvement with the society.
The scholarship is intended to help you toward the CPA exam, correct?
Yes. The ICPAS offers a variety of scholarships, thankfully, and mine supports my studies throughout the 2015-2016 academic year. In my case, I’ll earn my bachelor’s in December 2015, and begin my MSA at UIC during the spring 2016 semester. So the scholarship has reduced financial pressures on both my undergraduate and graduate studies.
Has the scholarship affected your activity outside of class?
After the ICPAS awarded me the scholarship, they followed up with an invitation to become an Illinois CPA student ambassador at UIC, a role that educates students on the benefits and resources of the Illinois CPA Society, such as scholarships, leadership development, CPA preparation and networking opportunities.
Have you had your sights on the CPA exam since the beginning?
No. When I was in high school, I was painting and putting together applications to art and architecture schools. I ultimately enrolled in UIC’s architecture program, and on a whim I took some business courses in my first year, thinking it would be practical. Later, as a sophomore, I was looking for opportunities to get more involved as a student at UIC. A friend introduced me to the Latino Association of Business Students, a UIC student chapter of ALPFA.
Does the ICPAS student ambassador role feel like a natural progression from your previous student organization experience?
It does. Over time, as I joined LABS at various ALPFA networking events and symposia, opportunities started opening up. It was at an ALPFA student symposium where I met a recruiter from Plante Moran. Within a few weeks, I'd interviewed with the firm and received an internship offer for the spring 2014 semester.
And this was in tax accounting?
Yes, in their tax service group. Work at Plante Moran made me curious about corporate accounting, so my next step was a corporate tax internship with the Tribune Media Company, which was a great learning experience in many ways.
What were the differences between public accounting work at Plante Moran and corporate work at Tribune Media?
It was a very interesting time to be at Tribune Media. They’d just spun off the publishing unit, and there was a lot to observe in their tax department. But the big difference between corporate and public accounting is that in corporate you’re committed to one corporation, thus one industry and one client. I like the variety of industries, clients and service groups that public accounting has to offer. I see more growth potential in public accounting, and there is an opportunity to learn more about the other service groups through rotations among groups.
And now you’re back in public accounting, interning at KPMG?
Yes. LABS has a strong relationship with KPMG, and KPMG has been involved with ALPFA through the KPMG Case Study at the annual National ALPFA Convention. Through LABS, I was chosen as an alternative team member for last year’s UIC KPMG Case Study, which put me in contact with recruiters and the KPMG network. I have been interning part time with KPMG’s federal tax service group since January.
And in addition to this and your coursework, you volunteer as well, right?
I’ve volunteered for Junior Achievement, which I learned about through my accounting studies and LABS. With Junior Achievement, I travel to high schools and talk to students about business and financial basics—how to open and maintain a savings account and the process of starting a business. The students gain a lot from seeing the future sketched out in a business-oriented way. And some of them take a stronger interest that might lead them to study business in college.
And where are you headed at this point?
Right now, I’m finishing my BS. I’ll start my MSA in January and finish by December 2016, and I’m very happy to continue my studies at UIC and build on my relationships with faculty and student organizations. I also have plans to intern with KPMG in 2016, and, after my MSA, I’ll have the 150 hours to sit for the CPA exam. Beyond that, if all goes well, I’ll continue to work at KPMG.