A new agreement with Wake Forest University's Accountancy Program encourages Davidson students to consider earning a Masters of Science in Accountancy (MSA) degree there by offering a half-tuition scholarship to as many as five Davidson students per year.
The new agreement is based on a long-standing relationship between the two institutions, and promises benefits to both.
Professor Ben Baker, who teaches the three accounting courses offered in Davidson's economics department curriculum, touts the Wake MSA degree as an almost guaranteed ticket to employment. "Wake is ranked among the nation's top business schools," said Baker. "They've got a 100 percent graduate placement rate, with students receiving multiple job offers!"
Professor Jack Wilkerson, Senior Associate Dean of Accountancy at Wake, said the agreement reflects Wake's positive impression of Davidson students, and intentions to increase the number of high quality liberal arts students it enrolls.
Baker emphasized that the offer from Wake is not limited to economics majors. He noted, "Recently we've had several classics majors, political science, Spanish, history and others enroll in accountancy programs. The graduate programs really do want students with diverse interests, and the agreement says a lot about how well our students speak, write, and can collaborate to solve problems."
Wilkerson supported Baker's comments, saying, "Whatever their undergraduate area of study, we have found that Davidson graduates perform at consistently high levels in our program. The strong liberal arts breadth these students receive at Davidson is the perfect foundation for success in our program, as well for success in the careers of these students."
Professor Fred Smith, economics department chair, said the agreement also testifies to Professor Baker's diligence and advocacy. "Ben has been working for years to develop personal relationships with representatives of graduate programs, and to make sure our courses are giving students the background they need to be successful in graduate programs. The scope of this agreement with Wake Forest is remarkable, and it's all the result of his efforts."
The agreement stipulates that Davidson will continue to host informational visits to Davidson by Wake Forest faculty members and admissions officials. That aspect of the agreement merely formalizes existing arrangements, since Baker has been hosting Wake Forest admission officers, including Wilkerson, every year since the MSA program was founded in 1996.
In addition to the scholarship offer, Wake Forest agrees to designate one Davidson student a year as the "Davidson Accounting Fellow" who sits on the MSA program's Student Advisory Council. Baker is likewise being appointed to the MSA program's "Key Schools Advisory Council." Both groups offer advice to administrators and faculty on recruiting and academic programming.
Baker said Wake and Vanderbilt are the MSA programs of choice for Davidson graduates, and many Davidson have completed the Wake MSA program through the years. Wake enrolls about 125 students in its three-semester MSA program. About 55 are graduates of Wake Forest's undergraduate college, and 70 are drawn from elsewhere, including Davidson.
The program includes coursework, seminars and case-based research to prepare students for a career in auditing, tax consulting, investment banking, or financial consulting. It lasts three semesters, and includes a ten-week internship. Students earn their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential between the second and third semesters.
Professor Wilkerson said the agreement with Davidson is "path breaking" for Wake Forest, and a good first step toward his hopes of striking similar agreements with as many as two-dozen top liberal arts colleges across the country. Wake has already struck a similar agreement with Washington and Lee University to offer scholarships to its graduates.
Davidson also has a similar agreement with one other graduate school–The Robert Day School of Finance at Claremont-McKenna College in southern California. In an effort to strengthen its appeal to top liberal arts students on the east coast, Claremont-McKenna invited Davidson's economic department to nominate one student a year for a full tuition and fees scholarship to pursue a master of arts in finance degree. The first student selected for the program is Ryan Overcash '12, and another will be selected in the spring term.