April 17, 2019 • By Jessie Yount
Kimberly Hedges, MPAc, ’19, was drawn to UCI early on, before she even applied to undergraduate programs. The leafy Aldrich Park reminded her of her home on the East Coast, and the prestige of the UCI Paul Merage School of Business made it an obvious choice.
During her undergraduate years, she found a home at the Merage School, and discovered a fondness for accounting and grew to appreciate the structure and career stability it would provide. She wanted to stay on UCI’s welcoming and lively campus, and the Merage School’s Master of Professional Accountancy would allow her to do that.
“Although the UCI campus is large, the faculty and professors in my undergraduate program prioritized building relationships, assisting with career goals and getting to know students as individuals,” Hedges says. “I found myself in love with the the campus and the people, and I had to continue my journey as an Anteater!” ”
So she applied.
“The MPAc program offers a nice blend of academic theory and real-life application, and it gives you the flexibility to accomplish your goals,” Hedges says. “I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Merage School.”
As a current UCI and Merage undergraduate studying business administration, Hedges was able to make a seamless transition to a Merage School specialty masters program. Her application fee and GRE were waived, and she was admitted to the MPAc program during the summer after her junior year of undergrad. Her early admission gave her the ability to complete her prerequisites, and use career services during her senior year.
Once accepted into the program, Hedges applied her recruiting skills as a Specialty Masters Ambassador. She worked closely with Merage School Career Center, where she built her own network, and attended events and supported potential MPAc candidates.
“I really needed someone to walk me through the recruitment and interview process, as well as the CPA process,” Hedges said. “I wasn’t well connected at the Merage School prior to the MPAc program, so building camaraderie was huge.”
When the time for recruitment arrived, Hedges cast a wide net, seeking a work environment that would allow her to be inquisitive and give her the freedom to grow, despite the demanding nature of the job.
Hedges received several full-time job offers, which gave her the ability to choose between various, regional and global firms. Hedges accepted a position as a Staff Auditor at Ernst & Young. She was particularly fond of EY because she witnessed managers and partners that were able, and more so encouraged, to balance work and family life.
“The job will take a lot of hard work in the beginning, and that’s okay,” Hedges said. “But knowing that down the line, there will be flexibility and room to have a family, that was really important to me, too.”
Hedges is currently taking her CPA exams, and wrapping up her time as an Anteater. But she knows that she will stay connected with the people that she’s met along the way.
When Hedges graduates in June, her new degree will fulfill an ambition that was planted in her before she even started grade school. As a toddler, Hedges sat in the back of her mother’s night classes, and at 5 years old, she had separate piggy banks for a college fund, retirement fund and even a vacation fund.
“My parents wanted me to understand the concept of money management and saving. And I thought, school is so much fun, I want to go longer,” says Hedges. “So there I was, around 5 years old, and I had already decided that I wanted to get my masters degree.”