Just 39 people out of 92,000 plus candidates who took the Uniform CPA Examination in 2012 scored above 95.5, and two of those high scorers were graduates of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accounts just released the names of those who will be receiving the prestigious Elijah Watt Sells Award, given only to people who average above 95.5 on the four tests all must take to become certified public accountants. Jill Aoki and Anthony Lemon, who graduated with master’s degrees in accounting from USU in 2012, were on that list. It’s a unique accomplishment that school officials say has never been matched by an accounting graduating class at USU.
Graduates from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); University of Wisconsin, Texas A&M, Bentley University, Boston College, Georgetown University and Brigham Young University were among the few schools that could boast their graduates earned the prestigious award.
Larry Walther, the department head for the School of Accountancy, said it is extremely unusual for a school the size of the Huntsman School of Business to have two students win the Sells Award.
“I think it says something about us either being really lucky or, at least having the right curriculum in place,” he said. “I hope it says we have the right curriculum in place and the right kind of students.”
Scott Nixon, who is a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers where Lemon now works, doesn’t seem to think there’s any luck involved.
“This is unheard of really,” he said. “It happens so rarely in the state of Utah to any of the universities. It’s wonderful that USU has two winners. That just says a whole lot about the program at Utah State.”
Nixon said when he first met Lemon at a recruiting event he could tell that he was “very special” and that they would want him on the PricewaterhouseCoopers team.
“Anthony is a stellar example of the high quality USU graduates who show up in the work force with a ready knowledge of how to work hard and make significant contributions to the teams they work with,” he said.
Lemon said his classes introduced him to the basic concepts he would need to understand for the test, and the good study habits he developed in school helped him prepare for it.
Aoki, who was the Huntsman valedictorian last year, agreed that the classes she took and professors she worked with helped prepare her for the test. She said Walther and other professors encouraged her to study hard for the exam by expressing confidence in her ability to come out on top as a Sells Award winner.
“I did use a review course,” she said. “Most people do use some sort of review, so I think that was helpful. One thing I did was that I made flash cards of pretty much everything. I had these electronic flash cards, and everywhere I was going – even if I was walking across campus – I had my phone out looking through them. If I was just waiting in line at the grocery store, I was going through them.”
Tracy Christman is an audit partner at Ernst & Young where Aoki had been offered a job after she completed a summer internship more than a year before graduation. Like Nixon, Christman was involved in the recruiting process and was pleased to see Aoki get top scores.
“I think it is absolutely outstanding,” she said. “I know from personal experience that passing the exam is a huge milestone but to be able to do so in such spectacular fashion…it’s just amazing to me.”