Resource support

Funding to support new accounting students

The Patterson School of Accountancy recognizes graduates at its 2022 commencement ceremonies. New $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help up to 40 minority and first-generation students earn degrees in the field over the next three years. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Mississippi — The Patterson School of Accountancy at the University of Mississippi has received a $1.4 million funding initiative from the U.S. Department of Education that will help up to 40 minority and first-generation students get degrees in the field over the next three years.

The Minority and First Generation Educational Initiative Scholarship was established in August to assist Mississippi residents who are minority or first generation students in their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in accounting, master’s degree in accounting, and data analysis or a master’s degree in taxation and data analysis. The funding, totaling $1,448,000, will support eight new freshmen, four new community college transfers and eight new master’s students each year.

The funding will affect generations of Mississippians, said W. Mark Wilder, dean of the accounting school.

W.Mark Wilder

“Our program and the education we provide is highly valued in the marketplace,” Wilder said. “Our students are in high demand and are getting well-paying jobs. The education they receive at the Patterson School has the ability to impact not only the lives of the graduates themselves, but also the lives of their children, grandchildren, and future generations of their families.

Morris Stocks, the Don Jones chair of accounting who led the funding, said more diversity was needed in the field of accounting. Companies looking for potential hires often inquire about first-generation and minority school members, he said.

“We have such a sense of belief that this is a highly transformative program, and we are grateful for the opportunity to expand the reach of this program,” Stocks said.

The funding, which was approved after the start of the academic year, partially sponsors two students this semester and fully supports graduate student Caitlyn Henry, who is pursuing a master’s degree in accounting and data analytics.

Henry, a first-generation student at Isola, was notified of her scholarship eligibility on the first day of the fall semester and recalls feeling “overwhelmed with gratitude and mild disbelief.”

“This scholarship is a powerful incentive for Mississippi students who may be conflicted about pursuing their education,” she said. “This grant eases an enormous financial burden on students and their families and provides greater access to higher education so students can develop job skills and launch their careers.

One of the main reasons Henry attended Ole Miss during his undergraduate career was his awarding of a Luckyday Scholarship, which supports Mississippi students and covers tuition for four years.

“Financial need is a barrier that many of these students like me face every day,” she said. “Growing up in the Mississippi Delta and seeing the people around me who don’t have the same educational opportunities I was blessed to receive has shed new light on the socio-economic barriers that so many people try to overcome.”

Accounting graduate student Caitlyn Henry is the first student to be fully supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Education. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

While helping students financially, the program will also fund a success coach position within the accounting program, Stocks said. The person hired for this position will mentor and monitor the progress of grant recipients.

“If a student has someone they can go to and just ask, ‘What can I do about this?’ they tend to be successful,” he said. “The person in this position would be responsible for keeping in touch with these students and encouraging them to succeed.”

Funding to employ graduate students as mentors for undergraduates is also ingrained in the program, Stocks said.

These resources can be especially helpful for first-generation college students who may not have a parent or family member to direct these questions to, Wilder said.

Henry said most students who identify as minority or first-generation “have a certain level of courage and determination that makes them a unique caliber of student,” but they also tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves. Having a success coach in the department will help them maintain their goals without being overwhelmed, she said.

“A lot of times I think it’s easy to get caught up in small defeats and not see the big picture,” Henry said. “Having a mentor to turn to when you’re feeling down is such a valuable resource because he’s been there for you.

“They can give you the encouragement you need to keep moving forward.”

The Patterson School of Accountancy will support more students in the spring semester and begin seeking student applicants for fall 2023, Stocks said. Graduate students from any university can apply, as long as they currently reside in Mississippi. There is no minimum GPA requirement to apply.

Students seeking a grant application should contact Stocks at [email protected] for more information.