The Dixon Hughes Goodman Accountancy Program at Western Carolina University recently achieved a major milestone with its namesake benefactor.
Thanks to the generosity of alumni with the public accounting firm, a $1 million pledge was not only met, but surpassed in only six years after being made.
In 2015, WCU graduates working for the firm – 50 at the time – announced that they were coming together to combine their support of student success in accountancy. “WCU’s legacy of developing accounting and business leaders is greatly important to me, as many of our partners, employees and clients are graduates of the program,” said Ken Hughes, a 1974 graduate and a company cofounder. “I hope that DHG’s gift will help ensure the perpetuation of qualified professionals in the accountancy profession for many years to come.”
Donations and gifts would make possible a variety of initiatives at their alma mater, including study grants, internship assistance and support for participation in academic competitions and research, professional development programs, summer studies and fellowships and scholarships. The community, in turn, also would benefit from topnotch graduates from the program, emerging leaders and dedicated civic engagement.
The university then renamed the accountancy program in recognition of the company’s commitment. Now known as DHG, the nationally ranked company serves clients in all 50 states and internationally.
“At DHG, our goal is to make the lives of our team members, our clients and our communities better. One way we do so is supporting universities such as WCU,” said CEO Matt Snow. “We believe that our support helps build the future of our profession and strengthen the communities we serve. We are proud to partner with WCU in this way.”
WCU’s accountancy curriculum focuses on building student knowledge of general business, auditing, tax and other accounting-related functions. An emphasis is placed on critical thinking and decision-making abilities.
“The support of DHG has greatly expanded our ability to provide learning experiences to both undergraduate and graduate students, including professional activities both here locally and abroad,” said Susan Swanger, professor of accounting in the DHG Accountancy Program.
Resources provided by the DHG endowment have assisted the accountancy programs in helping students experience accounting on the international scene. Funds have assisted with an international accounting course that includes a travel component to England and the Netherlands.
“Through DHG’s support of internships, office tours, leadership programs and social events, the accounting students have been introduced to professional accounting staff at a wide range of career stages. They’ve had opportunities to interact and engage with these professionals and learn more about a career in accounting,” said N. Leroy Kauffman, professor of accounting.
“Input from DHG staff has also been a critical component in helping us keep our curriculum in tune with what the profession needs from entry level accountants,” he said. “They have been actively engaged in our advisory board, along with other accounting professionals, in providing real world feedback on changing demands of the profession. This is a valuable link for the accounting faculty and helps keep the curriculum up-to-date.”
One recent Dixon Hughes Goodman scholarship success story is Heather Brady, a 2019 graduate. She is now an audit associate with the firm in Atlanta and volunteers as a mentor for WCU students, wanting to provide guidance just as she had been given that later helped launch her career.
“WCU faculty and staff care about their students,” said Brady. “They always pushed me to apply for things. They were passionate about my success.”