“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” That Lao Tzu quotation was printed across the top of a page in my school planner. While it was just one of numerous inspirational quotes accompanying my list of activities to do each day, that particular phrase would stick in my memory throughout my collegiate journey. Now, as I near graduation, I can’t help but look back at the last five years of my life and be proud of how much I have grown, both personally and professionally. While many individuals and organizations have influenced my university experience and career path, nothing has been more instrumental to my development than my IMA involvement.

I took the first small step in my IMA journey at the urging of one of my accounting professors. She invited me to attend the Christmas party hosted by our school’s IMA student chapter for which she was the advisor. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after an evening of games, laughter, and decorating homemade cookies, I knew this was a fun group that I wanted to be a part of.

In the following years, I’d learn of the incredible opportunities that opened up for me and the benefits that I reaped by serving as an officer in my IMA student chapter. I served in a variety of roles for our IMA student chapter, including public service chair, vice president of communications, president-elect, and, this past year, president. IMA has taught me the importance of developing leadership and organizational skills, as well as networking.

One of the biggest networking opportunities that I experienced as a result of my involvement in IMA was attending the IMA Student Leadership Conference (SLC). One of my favorite memories was from the 2015 IMA SLC. After conference sessions had finished for the day, a rumor spread that there was going to be a beach volleyball game that evening. When the small group of four students from our university showed up and began to hit the ball around with a couple other kids, I certainly didn’t anticipate the competitive game that would result.

As I sat on the sidelines to rest for a moment, I couldn’t help but marvel at how students from different colleges in various parts of the country with a wide range of backgrounds easily came together as teammates. While it was obvious that some were better players than others, skill really didn’t matter. Encouragement and laughter were almost a constant among the players—it didn’t matter that my serve left a lot to be desired. For those short hours, we were a team of friends. The overall experience at the IMA SLC is absolutely incredible, and attending it for multiple years has resulted in my acquiring additional skills, knowledge, friends, and professional connections that will last a lifetime.

Last fall, I made the decision to complete the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam review courses for credit toward my MBA degree. The two courses offered by my university allow students to earn credits as they study for this important professional certification exam. Five years ago, I didn’t even know that this certification existed. When I began the five-year accounting program offered by my school, I had every intention of earning my MBA and CPA. But from my involvement in IMA, I know that passing both parts of the CMA exam will be an important addition to my professional knowledge and résumé. As a young accounting professional, I stand to gain a significant amount of credibility from the CMA certification; it will truly set me apart from my peers.

In contrast to Ohio’s requirements of a minimum of 150 credit hours to sit for the CPA, I was excited that I could take the CMA exam while I was still a student. Early in January 2018, I sat for the first part of the CMA exam. It was an amazing experience, and now that I’ve passed the second portion of the exam, I’m even more excited to earn this certification. IMA has opened the door for me learn about financial planning and analysis (FP&A), performance, analytics, and strategic financial management to progress along the path toward earning this certification. As a recipient of a CMA scholarship, I know that I wouldn’t have been able to pass this important exam without the support of the IMA organization and my university’s IMA student chapter advisor, who urged me to study and sit for the CMA exam.

After graduating in May, I’m continuing my involvement in IMA through our local IMA chapter in Canton, Ohio, and planning to finish my CMA after completing the requirement to have at least two years of full-time work experience.

IMA has taught me important leadership skills as I led my chapter during meetings, as well as organizational techniques as I planned speakers and fun events throughout the academic year. IMA has also offered me the opportunity to network with accounting students and professionals from around the country through the IMA SLC. Most importantly, being involved as an officer in my university’s student chapter has inspired me to share my passion for accounting with other students at my university and my young professional peers.

Through my continued involvement in IMA, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for my career and the accounting and finance profession as a whole. My journey of a thousand miles has just begun, but I’m so happy that almost five years ago I took the first step toward joining IMA and becoming a CMA.

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