Accounting and MBA 4+1 student made the most of her time on campus
One of the best things about a midsized campus like UMass Dartmouth is that it's big enough to give students every opportunity they need to succeed, but small enough that each year a small group of superstar students shine in a way that'd be hard to do at a larger university. Capri McLucas is one of those students.
No matter where you look, it seems like the entire campus community – undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, alumni and prospects – has had an experience socializing, studying, and/or working with her, and can now call her a friend.
Between leadership roles in two clubs, three on-campus jobs, speaking at Convocation and her undergraduate Commencement, and seven straight semesters on the Chancellor's List (minimum 3.8 GPA), McLucas is involved in, and succeeded at a lot at UMassD.
Though she started as a computer engineering major, McLucas always had a mind for accounting and budgeting, and chose UMassD because of the long-term affordability.
"I chose UMass Dartmouth because it was my most affordable option, at an ideal distance from home, and my older sister went here – so I was comfortable here," McLucas said. "I knew that if I came here I would have the opportunity to pay for my education and graduate with no debt."
After a semester as a computer engineering student, she recalls succeeding in the subject, but not seeing a career for herself in it. She sought guidance from her boss and mentor, former Assistant Director of Admissions, and now Head Football Coach, Josh Sylvester, who recommended applying her mathematic skills toward a more conceptual subject like accounting or finance.
"Accounting is like programming. At first, I liked how everything has to balance and that it seemed so black and white. But now I'm starting to notice how subjective it can be. Accounting gives you a big-picture view of the entire business model."
Recognizing the importance of both "left-brain" and "right-brain" skills, she added a minor in communication, citing the discipline's perspective of society as a vital skill in the business world.
"You can never go wrong learning how to communicate effectively, and I always loved writing, so I didn’t want to lose that. Communication classes relate to business in a lot of ways – learning about biases and different dialects are lessons that'll help anyone in their careers. The world is people and people are communicating. The communication minor changed the way I saw the world."
After seemingly figuring out a path for herself, COVID-19 disrupted the middle of her college experience. Upon returning to campus, McLucas knew she had limited time to make the most out of her college experience.
"Coming back from the pandemic, I felt I had two years to fit four years' worth of experiences. I became a yes-woman to as many opportunities as possible. A lot of people I’m friends with now I wouldn't have met without the clubs and jobs I joined."
Her list of involvements is extensive. While maintaining a 3.9 GPA, McLucas worked on campus as an admissions ambassador, Charlton College of Business (CCB) ambassador, and Business Center tutor, simultaneously serving as Beta Alpha Psi's secretary, and the founder and president of the Student Alumni Association.
Off campus, she worked at O'Connor & Drew in an audit internship, and Withum as a tax intern. This summer, she'll intern at Big Four auditing giant Ernst & Young in their Boston office, while taking graduate courses as part of the 4+1 MBA program, which she anticipates she'll complete by the end of 2023 and begin examinations to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
"Some of the most important parts of your development come from forcing yourself into situations where you have to become a leader. It’s about so much more than being the best or smartest, it's about being there for those who need you. It’s huge for your development, and the greatest way to build your network."
Through all this involvement with prospective, current, and former students in her roles, she's been a perfect ambassador for the university, and was chosen as a student speaker for the "Future of CCB" event, Convocation, and Commencement, where Chancellor Mark Fuller quipped that he was glad he was preceding her, as following her speeches in the former two proved difficult tasks.
Why work in an on-campus job?
"You meet the university's faculty in class, but its staff working in on-campus jobs. Those are some of my favorite connections. Working as an admissions ambassador connected me to two of my greatest mentors in Josh Sylvester and Director of Digital Content and Strategy, Chelsey Puza.
"Working on panels as a CCB ambassador connected me with so many faculty that I never even had as a professor. I recently won the Richard D. Legault award this past semester thanks to the votes of faculty, most of whom never had me as a student."
How do these connections benefit your career goals?
"When participating in the Alumni Engagement Task Force, I talked to Young Alumni Council President Matt Witzgall and mentioned I was looking for an internship and he set up a potential opportunity for me that day. I ended up opting for another internship, but that's a testament to growing your network with the campus community.
"Being exposed to so many people helps me talk to anyone. Those soft skills are the most important thing when you're looking for a job. Hirers don’t care that you know everything about accounting – they want to know that you’ll be a good fit.
"A lot of college students say, 'I'm just here for my degree' and don’t want to participate in everything else. Participating is the difference between a degree and a meaningful experience."
Are there any accomplishments you’re particularly proud of?
"Creating and growing the Student Alumni Association. When we started in the fall of 2021, we had three students and an advisor. Now we have 35 really dedicated students that I can depend on and 35 friends I'd feel comfortable reaching out to. Creating a club from nothing and getting people to care about its mission and growth has been the most important experience during my time here."
What is an audit internship like?
"At O'Connor & Drew we audited universities, nonprofits, government entities, and auto dealerships. I worked mostly on Higher Education Relief Fund (HERF) audits, making sure COVID-19 relief funds were appropriated correctly. It was hard, but I thought it was fun because it was like solving a big puzzle every day.
"Your bosses teach you what you need to do, so it's a great learning experience. I'm in a position now where I could begin a career full-time, but I'm instead taking another internship because I know I'll feel so much more prepared and ready for a career after exposure to another auditing company, this time at the third-biggest firm in the world, Ernst & Young (EY)."
Does it help to have seen both small and large firms?
"I liked working at a smaller firm in O'Connor & Drew because you learn more about the entire process instead of specializing in niche teams. When O'Connor & Drew was acquired by Withum, I was suddenly working for a medium-large organization with 28 times as many staff as O'Connor & Drew. In a bigger organization, I found that I liked the network I had with other accountants, and decided if I was going to experience a big auditing company, I might as well experience the biggest, and explored the 'Big Four' firms.
"I really liked that while EY wants their interns to be trained to specialize in their areas, they want you to get that training in as many areas as possible. They want highly skilled employees and I want to be a highly skilled employee that has the options to do anything I want to in my career. Working at a big four exposes you to an enormous network and stands out on your résumé, so I think my experiences at all three leaves me very prepared for whatever comes next."
What did you learn about yourself in these roles?
"They confirmed that I love accounting in the industry as much as I do in the classroom, which helped me decide the path I want to take towards becoming a CPA. I also learned my flaws. As a straight-A student, you’re used to knowing the answers. When you get into professional accounting, sometimes there isn’t a correct answer and you have to adapt. You learn your strengths and your weaknesses when you get tossed into the fire with other interns and coworkers you can compare your tactics to and learn from."
Why should other students look for internships?
"It's a great opportunity to meet people, learn about yourself, and learn if this career path is right for you. They also often pay more than the typical summertime minimum wage job."
Have you had a favorite class or professor?
"Advanced Tax with Assistant Teaching Professor Chris Jacobsen. I had him twice and he's the best. He gives so much time to his students. He cares, he’s funny, he makes learning fun. I think he's the best professor here."
Do you have a favorite memory here?
"Any time the campus community gets together en masse. The whiteout football game was so much fun. I got to walk on the field and announce raffle winners to a filled capacity. Blue & Gold Weekends were always a lot of fun too."
How do you know UMassD was the right choice for you?
"Because though it wasn’t a perfect experience, and even with COVID-19, I'd still do it again 1,000 times over. I have no regrets."
Do you have any advice for first-year UMassD students?
"Get involved in some way. Find a job on Corsair Jobs, join a club, or just attend events on campus. Even if you're just here for a degree, try it and see where it takes you."
What's next for you?
"I'm 3/10ths through my MBA, so I plan to take summer and fall classes to complete the program by the end of the year and begin working full-time in January 2024. After that I want to get my CPA."
How prepared do you feel to enter the next phase of your life?
"Very. I feel confident because of the reassurance professors and staff have given me. A lot of times it’s hard for me to see how awesome I am, but it means a lot when faculty and staff tell me that."