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Renita Zhou

Renita Zhou

Landing in the right place

There are dangers that come in an unchecked financial system. Renita Zhou (MPAc '22) now works to prevent those dangers from occurring.

Newly named as an audit associate with Big Four accounting firm KPMG, it is Zhou’s job to ensure clients are playing by the rules that help make capitalism a thriving economic model instead of a threat to the masses.

It’s a job to which she brings the lessons she recently learned as a student of UC San Diego's Rady School of Management's Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAc) program.

“The guidance and expertise from the professors in this program have enhanced my academic knowledge,” said Zhou, who interned with KPMG as a student in the MPAc program.

“They also prepared me with relevant skills and insights that are directly applicable in a professional setting.”

That Zhou’s academic journey ended with a job at a public accounting firm is an example of a story going according to plan. She received her bachelor’s degree in international business from UC San Diego in 2021 and set her sights on earning her master’s degree while preparing herself to work in public accountancy.

The MPAc program was exactly what she was looking for, she said.

The program is designed to prepare students to face not only the business problems of today but also those that are soon to come. It focuses on a project-based curriculum that teaches solutions to issues that aren’t yet in textbooks.

The MPAc program has received a STEM designation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a recognition of its focus on training future leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The MPAc experience culminates in a capstone project in which students work on real-world financial accounting, tax or consulting projects with entities ranging from small startups to government agencies, corporations and professional service organizations. Zhou said she found that capstone project to be among the most valuable experiences during her time in the MPAc program.

Because of the program’s project-based focus, students pick up valuable skills beyond accounting that make them more valuable to potential employers.

“The most important lessons that I learned include collaboration and project management skills,” Zhou said. “Project management is vital because you may have more than one engagement at the same time. It's critical to prioritize your tasks.”

Some of those tasks at KPMG include in-depth examinations of a variety of companies’ business processes and financial records, as well as tests of the effectiveness of their controls that ensure they are playing by the rules that make capitalism work best. Zhou said the MPAc program’s focus on data analysis prepared her well for the challenges she faces daily at KPMG.

The company is part of the fabled Big Four accounting firms, along with Deloitte, EY and PwC. It has more than 265,000 employees spread out across more than 140 countries and territories.

Zhou said she is proud to have ended her academic path with a job at KPMG and knows the MPAc program was an important part of the journey.

Her advice to students considering MPAc is to focus on more than just the academic lessons the program can teach.

“Improve your soft skills, too,” she said. “Communication is very important for teamwork.”