A CPA Brings Professional Experience to the Classroom

by Karen Doss Bowman


MSA Student, Kyle Sweeney

Kyle Sweeney left behind a lucrative career at KPMG—one of the world’s top audit firms—to become a student again. A graduate student in James Madison University’s (JMU) School of Accounting, Sweeney was drawn to the quality of JMU’s academic programs and faculty.

“JMU’s School of Accounting has well-rounded faculty, most of whom worked in the corporate world before teaching,” says Sweeney, whose wife, Amanda Deerfield, is a visiting professor of economics in JMU’s College of Business. “Having worked as practicing accountants, they’ve seen the reality of what accountants do every day in the workplace. That improves the quality of instruction and career preparation they are able to offer their students.”

Sweeney, a CPA, has worked with JMU graduates in the corporate world and has been impressed with their expertise and professionalism. Aware of the JMU College of Business’ outstanding reputation, Sweeney thought the university would be a good fit for him. He enrolled in the one-year Master of Science in accounting program in the fall of 2015 and will graduate in May.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree—with a double major in accounting and piano performance—from Rider University in New Jersey, Sweeney was hired as a senior associate in KPMG’s Audit Department in August 2011. He worked at the firm for four years.

For Sweeney, going back to school has been a refreshing change of pace from the corporate world. While his course load is demanding, he enjoys the intellectual challenge of being a student. He also has many opportunities to share from his professional experiences in the classroom, illustrating theoretical concepts in a real-world context.

“I’ve already seen first-hand so many of the scenarios we’re studying in class,” says Sweeney, a graduate assistant who tutors for several accounting courses and is a substitute lecturer. “The courses provide a good reinforcement of what I learned in the professional world. Every now and then, a professor will ask me about my professional experiences, and I usually have a good story to share that can help other students better understand the concepts.”

Once Sweeney completes the graduate program, he hopes to work as a college-level lecturer for a year or so. After that, he plans to apply to pursue a Ph.D. in accounting or a law degree with an L.L.M. in taxation.

Sweeney enjoys connecting with students, and he believes teaching will allow him to use his own professional experiences to help launch their careers. Accounting in the professional world requires strong communication skills and problem-solving abilities, he explains, and these skills are critical for professors as well.

“The essential aspects of teaching appeal to me, and teaching accounting is an extension of these skills I’ve used in the business world,” Sweeney says. “I believe I can use those skills to help students better understand the realities of practicing accounting. In doing so, I can help them become successful in their careers.”

Sweeney adds that JMU’s accounting program is well-connected with potential employers, offering a wide range of opportunities for internships and jobs after graduation.

“For students who are preparing for the interview process, JMU can help them connect with some impressive employers—and they will be well-prepared to make a good impression,” Sweeney says. “JMU’s Master of Science in accounting program is broad in terms of what students are exposed to. They get a good glimpse of what they’ll experience in the professional world. JMU definitely is giving accounting students the tools they need to be successful in their future careers.”

Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2018

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