Our Stories

Getting to the Job She Wanted

Accounting major leverages Vanderbilt to reach her goal

Lizzie O'Connell
Audit Assistant, Deloitte

Vanderbilt MAcc Assurance 2022

The summer after her sophomore year in college, Lizzie O’Connell was selected to attend Deloitte’s National Leadership Conference. Though she had been uncertain of whether she wanted to major in accounting—or whether she even wanted to devote a week of her summer to the subject—the experience left her with a clear direction for her career.

“I not only knew this was what I wanted to do when I graduated,” Lizzie says, “but the firm [Deloitte] where I wanted to do it.”

Once she was certain of her path, she knew she would pursue a master’s degree in accounting—the gateway to becoming a CPA. “I was initially intrigued,” she says, “that Vanderbilt’s program is the smallest in the nation, with all students taking the same classes. The program was also cohort based, and I enjoyed being challenged by like-minded individuals. And the program has a 97% pass rate for the CPA exam. I knew Vanderbilt would prepare me to sit for these exams, and I would have a group of people to study with.

“Once I became interested in Vanderbilt, I kept hearing about other people’s amazing experiences through individuals I knew. So many people reached out to me offering to help me with my application, offering advice, and sharing their experience. This type of alumni community and passionate outreach was unique to Vanderbilt, and I knew that I wanted to be part of it.”

That feeling only deepened after Lizzie joined the program. Thanks to the program’s controlled size and focus on collaboration, she and her colleagues were able to build close relationships not only through group projects but through student clubs, Thursday evening Closing Bells, and karaoke nights at nearby nightspots. As an example, when she first arrived, the Owen Women’s Business Association matched each female student with a WBA buddy. “Instead of receiving a mass email to join the group,” Lizzie says, “I felt like my membership was truly valued.”

“In high-intensity environments, it’s easy to feel competitive, but I only ever felt supported at Vanderbilt,” Lizzie says. “Owen’s culture provides a space where each student is able to thrive and work together to succeed.”

Upon completing the program, Lizzie started her career just as she had wanted—as an audit associate with the firm that sparked her desire to pursue accounting.

Fun Fact: Lizzie joined a book club with some of her classmates as a way of keeping connected after graduation—and read 12 books with them during her time in the program.

In high-intensity environments, it’s easy to feel competitive, but I only ever felt supported at Vanderbilt.