September 23, 2021 • By Eliana Chow
Jose Ocampo BA ’21, MPAc ’23, is no stranger to meticulous planning and attention to detail, which will play a key role in his success as he begins studying for an advanced degree in public accounting this fall. Growing up, he saw his parents take great care with their money and work hard to support their family.
“From a young age, I had experience in budgeting,” he shares. “Studying economics as an undergraduate student and now getting a higher degree in accounting has been a natural transition, and something I thought I could use to help my family.”
Ambitious and eager for a challenge from the start, Ocampo earned a major in economics with double minors in accounting and digital information systems during his undergraduate years at UCI. “It was rewarding to acquire several different approaches to problem-solving through these very different courses,” he reflects. “Economics is more analytical, accounting is technical and math-intensive, and digital information systems consider how other people will view a given situation.”
Ocampo admits it was often difficult for him to get involved in student groups as a first-generation student. “Many of the business clubs depended on having a pre-existing network of connections,” he points out. “Since my parents were field workers, it was harder for us to form those professional connections.”
Nonetheless, Ocampo is eager to praise The Paul Merage School of Business for its tight-knit community that rallies around its own. Citing its smaller class sizes and collaborative environment, Ocampo felt most welcome in the MPAc program among kind faculty, staff and peers. “No school has treated me with more care and respect than Merage,” he affirms. “They treat me like family. Professor Machiavelli Chao, especially, has been instrumental in providing personal and professional guidance throughout my academic career and even provided a recommendation for my first job at Viking Tech America. Whatever I needed, he was there to support me.”
An additional financial question mark arose in March when Ocampo’s father passed away. While grieving and seeking to honor his father’s life, Ocampo had to put in overtime hours at work to continue paying for his tuition. For a time, financial uncertainty threatened his plan to earn a MPAc. But when he shared his story with Professor Patricia Wellmeyer and Jana Cheng, director and associate director of the MPAc program, they immediately agreed to help, Ocampo recalls. They provided him with financial assistance and nominated him for the PCAOB scholarship, a prestigious program for students who face financial barriers that stand between them and their dream of becoming an auditor.
Ocampo was selected as one of this year’s PCAOB scholarship recipients. Since the fund’s inception in 2011, he is only the second UCI MPAc student to receive the support. “These funds amount to almost a year’s worth of my pay,” he says. “I see my short-term goals like a ladder on my way to achieving bigger goals, and most of the early rungs have been related to savings. Not only does this money alleviate my need to work overtime, but it also frees me to fully concentrate on my studies and my family.”
Out of the array of disciplines Ocampo explored as an undergrad, he was most drawn to accounting for the recurring nature of the coursework. “Every session utilizes lessons you’ve learned in previous classes,” he explains. “In many other courses, it feels like you study something for a few weeks, take an exam, and never see that material again. With accounting, you must continuously apply your acquired skillsets to succeed. That’s a welcome challenge that affirms my work is worth something more than a grade.”
As he prepares to spend the next two years receiving the advanced technical training needed for a career in public accounting, Ocampo looks forward to building his professional networks with peers and experts in the field. “I’ve always felt supported by the people at the Merage School, so I feel confident this is the best place for me to achieve my goals and even reach beyond them to new possibilities,” he says.