By Constance Gist

 A hallmark of the Bantu education system enacted in South Africa during Apartheid included the curtailing, by law, of the education of Black children beyond the 8th grade; this included math education. 

When living in Johannesburg, I saw first-hand the effects of mass math deficiencies on the economy. 

Not only was the number of STEM professionals small, but so too was the number of accountants, tax professionals, and business owners because they did not have the access to math that is needed to excel in these professions. Understanding the power of numbers, even at the basic level, is key to generational wealth.” 

I am the Program and Relationship manner of the PwC-While You Work (PwC-WYW) initiative. I have an EdM, an MBA, and received my BS, in Computer Science). In this role, I believe I am helping to pave the way for historically marginalized learners to launch into successful accounting careers. The While You Work (WYW) program combines the best of NU-DMSB with the global power of PwC one of the Big Four Accounting firms. 

Fellows enroll for one year in PwC-WYW and spend 60% of their time on paid engagements in PwC offices around the country.  The other 40% is devoted to earning a fee-free MS degree in Accounting Analytics virtually. 

My department EDGE (Experiential Digital Global Education) partners with DMSB to create a customized master’s degree experience which gives PwC-WYW Fellows the graduate-level credits they need to sit for the CPA exam, in addition to the analytical expertise and managerial skills needed to stand-out in today’s accounting world. 

EDGE engages expert professors at NU-DMSB. The course work is project-based which allows the learners to connect the work they are doing in the field to what they are learning in the class.  Finally, a proprietary skills portfolio guides the experiential demonstration of knowledge attainment. 

Not only are they given the accounting course they need to qualify to take the CPA exam, but courses in entrepreneurship, strategy, data analysis, and people management are also required.  This breadth of coursework ensures our Fellows leave us being “robot-proof”, able to think beyond just the numbers with heightened business acumen.

On July 20th, six members of the 2022-2023 cohort were invited to the inaugural virtual Dean’s Dinner with DMSB’s Kate Klepper, Associate Dean, Graduate Business Programs, and Julie Chasse, Director, Graduate School of Professional Accounting. The cohort members invited were Camryn Carlisle, Davion Euell, Anabel Felix, Malachi Kirk, Thalia Perez Luz, and Gregory Mendez, all from the Class of ’23.

These Huskies were chosen from amongst the 50 Fellows who make up the second cohort and they were nominated by their peers because they demonstrated academic and professional excellence over the year. 

For Davion, PwC-WYW was a life-changing experience, about which he says, “The achievement I will never forget will be the number of changes and milestones I’ve reached in just a year’s time.” 

Malachi shared “…being able to really talk with the Dean helped me realize I really am part of the bigger world of Northeastern University.”

Gregory, when asked what advice he’d impart upon the incoming third cohort of the approximately 140 members entering in the fall of 2023, said “ … give *extreme* care to how you manage your time.  Not only in a school/work capacity but also in a personal capacity.”  

Thalia said, “This is a challenging program…it is important to maintain a positive mindset and seek support when needed.”

Camryn mentioned another key aspect of the program “…it’s important to build genuine personal connections with your peers because you will all lean on each other throughout your journey.” 

It is ironic how exposure to top education is a challenge all over the world.  When we were repatriated for a few years, both of my children struggled to maintain their prowess in mathematics which they brought with them from overseas. 

My children did the math “differently” and it was a struggle to catch on to the US way, especially since it is a discipline that inherently builds upon itself.  Fortunately, I was able to intercede to give them the support they needed and as a result, my eldest graduated from Yale with a BS in Cognitive Science, and my youngest from Princeton with a BS in Operations Research and Financial Engineering.

Many of our marginalized learners are not give given access to quality teaching so they fall behind, due to no fault of their own.  The new focus on higher education demographics in response to the recent Supreme Court of the United States rulings, may also influence the viability of such programs.  There is no shortage of research that shows having a diverse group of professionals in strategic roles, improves business outcomes.  The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) reported in 2019 that 2% of CPAs in America are Black and 4% identify as Hispanic/Latinx, so there is definitely room to increase these numbers. This novel business-to-business partnership with PwC is a great way to enforce equity, improve business outcomes and create positive, lasting, generational change.