Download Hi-Res Image • UCI Merage School Master of Professional Accountancy Alumna, Kristin Nguyen, at EY.

Kristin Nguyen: On the Fast Track

August 02, 2018

In just four years at UCI, Kristin Nguyen has accomplished what takes most students at least five: earning a bachelor’s and a master’s, and landing a full time job as an auditor for EY. 

It wasn’t even what she planned when she first came to UCI.  “I look back and I’m still shocked at how this career path unfolded for me,” she laughs.

Starting as a biology major, with a hefty load of advanced placement and community college courses under her belt, she planned to become an optometrist.  “Everyone in my family had gone into the medical field,” she explains.

Despite being a straight-A student, Kristin struggled in her biology classes.  She was keen not to disappoint her parents, who as teens escaped Vietnam by boat, and built new lives in the U.S. “Arriving to this country empty-handed, they knew minimal English, but with determination and perseverance, they are now successful professionals,” she says.  “Whenever I encounter challenges in life, I just think of how my parents conquered the many hardships that they have endured.  That mindset empowers me to overcome my own obstacles.  They are my inspiration.”

But with her parents’ support, she decided to switch to a subject she loved in high school and pursue a degree in business administration at The Paul Merage School of Business.  “The classes really just flowed for me,” she says.

By the end of her second year at UCI, thanks to the wealth of resources the Merage School put at her fingertips, she knew she wanted to work in accounting and specialize in auditing.  Burt Slusher, director of recruitment and admissions for the Merage School’s Specialty Masters Programs, met with Kristin several times to help her envision her future in the Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAc) program, and had stayed in touch with her throughout her time in the school. 

“When I looked at how much the MPAc program has grown in the past few years, I knew I wanted to be part of that legacy,” Kristin says.

During her last year of undergraduate work, Kristin applied to MPAc during the early application period, began working with the Merage School’s Career Center early in fall, went through a whirlwind recruitment season, and earned a coveted spot at one of the Big 4 accounting firms, EY.  “I’d rather be a small fish in a big pond,” Kristin explains.  “I knew I could excel in a fast-paced environment.”

That thirst for challenge and excitement makes Kristin stand out, says Slusher. “Part of being successful in our MPAc program is taking advantage of the array of professional development and student services we provide to students through career workshops, consultations, elective courses, and opportunities to connect with industry professionals,” Slusher says.  “Kristin actively utilized every aspect of our program and has been very successful with both her academic and career objectives.”

In addition to maintaining excellent grades in the program and interning at EY, Kristin got involved by served as a student ambassador for MPAc, CalCPA, and EY—while also working part time in a retail job and commuting an hour each way to campus from her family’s home.

The summer spent with EY’s audit practice cemented her love for accounting. “Everything changed with that internship where I was given the opportunity to put the knowledge from classes into action,” she explains. After completing her master’s, Kristin will return to EY fulltime.

One of her first orders of business there?  “I want to help the recruitment team by coming back to UCI to bring more Anteaters to the firm,” she says.  “I can see myself making an impact by helping students like me find their way.  It will be rewarding to give back to the school that has given me so much.”