Our Stories

Broadening Her Base of Opportunities

Eschewing offers in accountancy, Mary Chesnut Smith found the ‘perfect fit’ for her interests

Mary Chesnut Smith
Deals Associate, PwC, New York City

Vanderbilt MAcc 2016

When she graduated from UNC-Wilmington, Mary Chesnut Smith hoped to land a position that would combine her academic concentrations: Finance and Accounting. “I had opportunities to do accountancy and work as an auditor, but none in finance,” she recalls.

Mary Chesnut tentatively explored MAcc programs even though she knew she already had enough preparation to take the CPA exam without further academic training. As she considered her options, her participation in the CFA Institute Research Challenge — a global competition that provides university students with hands-on training and mentoring in financial analysis — cemented her desire for a career at the intersection of finance and accounting.

Meanwhile, during her research she “stumbled across” the Vanderbilt MAcc Valuation program — “a perfect fit for my finance and accounting background.” For several months, she weighed the benefits against the cost. Her choice, she says, came down to two key considerations: “The Vanderbilt program would open infinite opportunities to me, whereas my career trajectory at the time would not, and the reputation, network and quality of education (both technical and soft skills) from the program would help me succeed in anything I choose to do, not just accounting and finance.”

Now, after completing her Masters degree and landing a position in New York City, she believes more than ever that she made the right choice. “Vanderbilt opened the doors to the world for me,” says Mary Chesnut, a college soccer player who still enjoys the game. Before, I was struggling. I came from a small school with a lack of opportunities that I wanted, and I wasn’t confident in myself. Now, I have a network behind me and was able to hit the ground running.”


Fun Fact: Mary Chesnut grew up on a Christmas tree farm in North Carolina

“I came from a small school with a lack of opportunities that I wanted, and I wasn’t confident in myself. Now, I have a network behind me and was able to hit the ground running.”