Peers and professors she can count on

Pictured is Felicia AyalewFelicia Ayalew, B.B.A.’19

As an undergraduate student in the Haworth College of Business, Felicia Ayalew, B.B.A.’19, found a place to call home within the Department of Accountancy. Not only was crunching numbers a natural fit for her analytical mind, but the relationships she built with her professors and peers as a member of the Beta Alpha Psi honor society and National Association of Black Accountants helped her thrive as an aspiring professional. Now in her first year as a graduate student in the Master of Science in Accountancy program, Felicia reflects on the high points of being a Business Bronco.

Why did you choose your major or program? What appeals to you most about this area of study?

I always knew that I wanted to go into business. It wasn’t until I first began my introductory courses at the Haworth College of Business that I realized how much I actually enjoyed the subject of accounting. I had taken a beginner’s course in high school and enjoyed the class, but until I got to college, I didn’t realize how easily it came to me and how interesting I truly found it. What appeals to me most about the field of accounting is the challenge of analyzing numbers and gaining the knowledge of the inner workings of a company.  

How do you hope to apply your major/program to your future career? 

My ultimate goal for the future is to be able to use my knowledge and degree to help a nonprofit organization. I’ve always been interested in nonprofit work and volunteering, so I hope to be able to do that as a career in the future. 

What excites you most about your field? What are some unique opportunities and challenges that this industry presents?

The thing that excites me most about accounting is the broad spectrum of fields you can work in. You can be a forensic accountant or work for a nonprofit company. You can work for a corporation, startup company or even help people with their taxes. Having so many choices allows you to do what you would really like and to try different things. I would say the biggest challenge of this industry is the constantly changing laws and procedures. You have to continually make sure you stay updated and knowledgeable about your field. 

What have been your top highlights or experiences as a business student so far?

Meeting the amazing professors in the Department of Accountancy has been a highlight. They have taught me so much and given me the best advice. The reason I chose to be an accounting major is because of them and the love they have for their students and what they do. 

An experience that I am very grateful for would be an event put on by Beta Alpha Psi and the Zhang Career Center called Meet the Firms. This yearly event has allowed me to gain experience in networking and interviewing. It’s definitely how many of the accountancy students receive internships and job offers, just as I did.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned as a business student so far?

I think the most important thing I’ve learned as a business student is that you don’t have to do anything alone. And by that, I mean that there is nothing wrong with asking for help or accomplishing things as a group. Independent work is great but knowing that there’s nothing wrong with reaching out to your peers or your professors, and having the skills to do so, is super important. 

In what ways have you had to adapt as a business student during the current pandemic?

I’ve definitely had to adapt. I am not a person who does well with working from home. I love to go and do my work at the computer lab or study areas in the business college and having to transition to virtual learning has been a struggle for me. I’ve learned to have better time management and to designate a place within my home solely for work. I’ve learned to hold myself more accountable for the things that I need to do every day to stay on top of my work and not overwhelm myself. Sheltering in place has definitely been a huge challenge, and I hope everyone is staying mentally and physically healthy. 

Have you been a part of a student organization or club that has been especially influential in your college career? 

During my time as a student here at WMU, I’ve had the privilege of becoming a member of Beta Alpha Psi and the National Association for Black Accountants. Both organizations have helped to develop my professional skills and given me a sense of belonging here at the Haworth College of Business. Beta Alpha Psi was the first organization I joined, and it was the first time I made friends within my major. It also taught me all the professional skills I never knew I needed and how to network. NABA has given me a family here on campus and allowed me to truly feel like myself while learning how to navigate the professional world. Both organizations are great, and I really encourage others to go out there and find the right student organization for you (and just maybe that’s NABA or BAP!). 

Is there anything you would like to add?

Making sure to network and create relationships with your peers and professors is going to be so incredibly important to your career as a student. Whether that’s finding a good registered student organization to join, talking with other students in your classes or scheduling meetings with your department chair, it’s important to make connections. Make sure to get your name out there and get to know the people around you, because that is going to help you be successful in your time at college.