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Accounting Grads Crush the CPA Exam

Oct 13, 2021
5 min Read
Colin Fitzgerald and Scott Haveman profile photos

The two 2021 undergraduate accounting majors are also members of the first accelerated Master of Accounting cohort.

Since 1923, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has recognized the nation’s highest performers on the CPA Exam. This year, Creighton’s ranked accounting program produced two candidates – Colin Fitzgerald, BSBA’21, MAC’21, and Scott Haveman, BSBA’21, MAC’21 – for the 2021 Ellijah Watt Sells award.

Qualifying for the award is extremely rare. CPA candidates must obtain a cumulative average score above 95.50 across all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination and pass all four sections on the first attempt. To put in context their amazing feat, out of the 75,000 who sat for the 2020 exam, only 89 met the criteria for the Ellijah Watt Sells award.

“Our achievement with the EWS Award is a symbol of how tremendous Creighton’s accounting program is,” says Fitzgerald, who, along with Haveman, are graduates of the accelerated Master of Accounting program (and roommates as well).

Both alumni credit the Accounting Department for a large part of their success, stating the curriculum, particularly for the accelerated MAC program, is the foundation of the CPA Exam. Course material for Intermediate Accounting, taught by Maggie Knight, DBA, CPA, assistant professor of accounting and director of the Master of Accounting program, made up a large portion of the financial accounting and reporting exam, Haveman says. Despite having taken the course as a sophomore, he recalled content quickly during his preparation for the exam. Additionally, he credits Tom Purcell, PhD, CPA, professor of accounting, with his success in the tax-focused section of the exam.

“It is impossible to overstate the role of the accounting and accelerated MAC programs in preparing me for the exams,” Haveman, an audit and assurance assistant in Deloitte’s Dallas office, says. “Much of my preparation centered around reviewing information that I already knew from my classes.”

Fitzgerald concurs: “When I was reviewing for each of the four sections of the exam, there were very few pieces of information that I had not seen before.”

For her part, Knight is extremely proud that the accelerated MAC’s first cohort had such a strong CPA Exam success. “My students laugh that I talk about grit too much, but Colin and Scott have it, and it continues to pay off,” she says. “The intent of the program is obviously to make our students better future leaders and professionals, but also to help them be better prepared for the CPA Exam.”

Fitzgerald, an audit associate at Seim Johnson, LLP, in Elkhorn, Nebraska, calls the ESW Award the “crowning achievement” of his academic career, saying it reflects the time and effort he put into his studies while at Creighton, as well as the extensive time outside of class he dedicated to exam preparation. But, he maintains, taking a test prep class or buying a CPA Exam book are insufficient to attaining the level of success he achieved.

“While study materials will prepare you well, they simply do not compare to the quality of teaching you receive from Creighton’s tremendous faculty members in the Accounting Department,” Fitzgerald says.

“Each professor in the Heider College of Business Accounting Department is an expert in his or her field and is committed to the students,” adds Haveman. “I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from such excellent mentors.”