Just 39 people out of more than 92,000 candidates who took the Uniform CPA Examination in 2012 scored above 95.5, and two of those high scorers were graduates of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accounts recently released the names of those who will be receiving the prestigious Elijah Watt Sells Award, given only to people who average above 95.5 on all four tests candidates must take to become certified public accountants. Jill Aoki and Anthony Lemon, who graduated with master’s degrees in accounting from USU in 2012, were on that list.
Larry Walther, the department head for the School of Accountancy, said it is extremely unusual for a school the size of the Huntsman School of Business to have two students win the Sells Award.
“I think it says something about us either being really lucky or, at least having the right curriculum in place,” he said. “I hope it says we have the right curriculum in place and the right kind of students.”
Scott Nixon, who is a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers where Lemon now works, doesn’t seem to think there’s any luck involved.
“This is unheard of really,” he said. “That just says a whole lot about the program at Utah State.”
Lemon said his classes introduced him to the basic concepts he would need to understand for the test, and the good study habits he developed in school helped him prepare for it.
Aoki, who was the Huntsman valedictorian last year, agreed that the classes she took and professors she worked with helped prepare her for the test. She said she took a course to prepare for the exam and tested herself constantly with electronic flash cards before the exam.
Tracy Christman is an audit partner at Ernst & young where Aoki had been offered a job after she completed a summer internship more than a year before graduation. Christman said she was pleased to see Aoki get top scores.
“I think it is absolutely outstanding,” she said. “I know from personal experience that passing the exam is a huge milestone, but to be able to do so in such spectacular fashion...it’s just amazing to me.”