Ever since I was young, I always knew that I wanted to go to college and become an accountant. I assumed I would graduate, become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), then work for one of the Big 4 accounting firms. It was only in my junior year at Athens State University (ASU) that I learned that this path wasn’t my only option. When I first started at ASU, I was introduced to IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) and invited to join the IMA student chapter on campus and to learn more about what the chapter did and how it could benefit me as a student and as a future accountant.
Before learning about IMA, I had never heard of the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification. Through IMA and ASU’s student chapter, I’ve been able to hear from professionals who hold the CMA, and I decided that I wanted to earn the CMA and work in more of a management accounting role rather than a public accounting role.
Once I decided that I wanted to pursue the CMA, I needed to figure out how I was going to achieve that goal financially. As a full-time college student only working part-time, being able to afford to sit for the CMA exam was one of the biggest things holding me back from achieving my goal. I was thrilled to discover that IMA offers the CMA Scholarship, which is awarded to 10 students, who are nominated by professors, at each university. The scholarship includes membership to IMA and study materials to help students prepare for the CMA exam and covers exam fees the first time students take the exam. In 2022, I was nominated and chosen to be one of the students from ASU to receive the CMA Scholarship. Because of that, I can now sit for the exam and become a CMA without worrying about how to pay for it.
The CMA Scholarship was a financial benefit of joining IMA, and there were also so many nonfinancial benefits that I received as well. During my time with the ASU IMA student chapter, I’ve strengthened my leadership skills. Since joining the chapter, I’ve held multiple officer positions, including treasurer, vice president, and, currently, communications director. Being able to step up and fill these roles has given me the opportunity to grow leadership skills that I can then take into my career and use at work. I’ve also been able to work on my public speaking when leading a couple of our student chapter meetings.
Participating in community outreach programs is also a big part of the ASU IMA student chapter. Throughout the year, we have multiple opportunities for officers and members to volunteer for the community. Our most significant outreach program is sending canned food and money to our local food bank. During the fall semester, we set out boxes throughout the school so that students can donate food or money that will go directly to people in need in our community. For Valentine’s Day, we collect valentines with short notes written by students, which are then given to residents of a local nursing home to brighten up their day.
A valuable part of being involved with IMA and the ASU student chapter is being able to hear from local people who work in the accounting industry during our meetings. Getting to listen to these people and learn about what they do every day has helped me see how the things that I learn about in class will actually be used in my career. These meetings have also been a great way for me to learn about the different career options that are available to accountants. Along with regular meetings, we also participate in industry tours. This allows us to see accountants in action and what methods different organizations use in their accounting operations.
All in all, IMA has made a tremendous difference in my time as a student. Without it, I might not have learned about all of the different areas of accounting besides getting a CPA and working in a Big 4 accounting firm. Now I know there are various fields in which accountants can work. By receiving the CMA Scholarship, I have the opportunity to sit for the CMA exam and gain a skill that can help advance my career by setting me apart from others.
Before joining the ASU IMA student chapter, I hadn’t had many opportunities to practice leadership. Being able to hold a leadership role has helped me become more confident that I can one day lead a group of people in my job. I’m very appreciative that the ASU IMA student chapter puts an emphasis on community work because it allows me to give back to a community that has poured so much into me. I’m always excited to hear from our different speakers during every club meeting. Learning about what their jobs look like day-to-day is something I couldn’t have learned from a textbook. That makes each meeting so valuable to me.