The Power of Networking: M.S. in Accounting Grad leverages connections to succeed

Written byZachary Schleter

“You think that online, you’re not going to have those interactions, but I actually had great interactions with all of my professors and other students as well. I’ve made connections with people that I still talk to today that I’ve never met in person.”

Casey Fontenot
Graduation Year
M.S. in Accounting

For Casey Fontenot, networking has always been the key to professional advancement and success.

Early in her career, while working in public accounting, it helped her land a volunteer position as a CPA exam developer for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

A year later, it helped her make the switch from public accounting to auditing for the Louisiana Department of Revenue.

Eventually, it helped her move back to the private sector as deputy director for a consulting firm.

And earlier this year, her reputation in the accounting space landed her an appointment by the Governor to return to the Louisiana Department of Revenue as the assistant secretary of the Office of Tax Administration Group III, overseeing the department’s 200-employee auditing unit.

When Fontenot started the M.S. in Accounting program online, it was this networking ability that ultimately helped her succeed.

Expanding Her Network

Fontenot decided to earn her master’s in accounting to earn a higher salary as part of an incentive program with her employer at the time, the Louisiana Department of Revenue.Casey Fontenot poses with a colleague at the state capitol.

However, when she entered the program, she quickly found that a higher salary and more knowledge weren’t going to be the only results. The program gave her access to a large network of professors and colleagues in accounting.

“You think that online, you’re not going to have those interactions, but I actually had great interactions with all of my professors and other students as well,” she says. “I’ve made connections with people that I still talk to today that I’ve never met in person.”

The connections that Fontenot made with her professors while completing the program have been particularly valuable to her in her career. 

“I have several of my former professors’ cell phone numbers,” she says. “When changing employment, I met with a few of them to discuss and ask questions to attain their knowledge about other topics due to their expertise on the subject matters. Recently, one of my former adjunct professors who is retired and doing consulting, was hired to conduct a seminar for the audit staff at the Louisiana Department of Revenue.

“The communication and professional relationships I’ve gained with my professors through the program have been an asset to my furthering education.”

Getting It Done

Casey Fontenot poses with her daughter.While Fontenot’s passion for connecting with her instructors and classmates was evident during her program, she still had to do the work and figure out how to integrate online accounting courses into her already busy life as a traveling professional and mother.

Because she worked full-time during the week, she would wake up early on Saturday mornings to complete her assignments, giving her enough time to review and submit them before they were due, usually on Sunday evenings.

She completed many of her assignments on the road while traveling for audits and other work obligations.

“I took one exam while I was at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington D.C., and another one when I was in Portugal,” Fontenot says. “There was one trip where I was in New York completing an audit, and in the afternoon after work, I was writing a paper for my course.”

And while this ability to get work done on the road proved invaluable to Fontenot, a huge part of being successful in her program was being realistic and knowing what her limits were. She only took one course each accelerated, 8-week term, ensuring that she could give the material for each course the attention it deserved and always put her best foot forward.

“During several terms, I would enroll and complete one course at a time because I was expecting the course work to be time intensive,” she says. “I like to really do well in each course, and I am very passionate about doing well and learning the subject matter. The knowledge I’ve attained through this program has been so beneficial in furthering my career.”

Often, she relied on the network she built in the program to succeed, asking her professors and peers for support when she needed it.

“Reach out to your professors if you have questions because they will give you the best feedback,” she advises. “I could tell they appreciated that I cared so much. I was so interested in the courses one of my professors stated, ‘I want to help you succeed, and I want this to be easy for you.’

“At work, we all have different deadlines and busy times of the year. There were times when I needed a lighter course load. Other students gave me the best feedback on this.”

The Future of Work

Fontenot asserts that she wouldn’t have been able to complete the master’s program if it hadn’t been online. Juggling her work, professional involvement, and family meant that she would need a program that fit her schedule.

“It’s innovative that they made the master’s 100% online because for someone like me, my work is very time consuming,” says Fontenot. “I need that flexibility of scheduling.”

Beyond the flexibility of completing the coursework on her own time, Fontenot has also found that completing her degree online shows just how hardworking she is.

“Candidates who complete online programs demonstrate that they have not only the skills but also the discipline to get work done,” she says. “In today’s environment, more individuals want remote work, and this is a great way to show, ‘Hey, I can work remotely successfully. I completed this program that’s hard and time-intensive, and I have the skills.’”

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