Class of 2015
Unlike most of my undergraduate classmates, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a public accountant. I had planned to use my accounting degree in a different field of practice, such as strategy, risk, or economics. Thomson Reuters gave me an opportunity to work in all three of these areas. I spent the first few years of my career working in the Company’s tax and accounting business specializing in a niche area of state regulatory compliance consulting called abandoned and unclaimed property (“AUP”). I enjoyed working in this area as it allowed me to leverage my financial accounting skills while still giving me the opportunity to learn more about financial modeling and multistate economics. After a few years, Thomson Reuters sold our business to a smaller tax services firm and I joined PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (“PwC”) AUP practice, which was located in the Firm’s larger State & Local tax business.
As a Manager in a Big 4 tax practice, you are evaluated on your ability to identify tax-specific issues and bring solutions to your clients. Because unclaimed property is not a tax per se, it became apparent that I needed to broaden my technical skills in certain areas of tax to develop a framework that could be used in these situations. I began looking for a graduate program that would bridge the gap between the little I knew about corporate taxation and the knowledge that was needed to be successful in a multinational tax practice. I knew this experience would help open doors at the firm.
I evaluated programs based on rank, curriculum, convenience, and schedule. The ILLINOIS MS Tax Program ranked highest in all four of these categories: the program was ranked # 1 in the country, had a well-rounded curriculum, was located in the Chicago Loop, and allowed me to finish a part-time graduate degree in a 12-month period. The ILLINOIS MS Tax Program gave me a detailed understanding of some of the most complex topics in US and international taxation and the building blocks I needed to help my clients solve complex business problems. I really enjoyed our international taxation class and learning about the corporate inversions that were taking place throughout the year. I also enjoyed our corporate reorganizations class and learning about how a deal’s structure can impact a company and its shareholders. Overall, the curriculum deepened my existing knowledge and made me a more confident tax professional.
The faculty is what really sets this program apart – all of the professors are very distinguished in their fields of study and are easily accessible throughout the year. The ILLINOIS MS Tax program provides the perfect mix of academic professors to industry professionals so that you are seeing most discussion topics from a few different perspectives. Finally, the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program served as a platform to network with individuals across the Chicago tax and accounting communities. The program implements a team-based learning approach that gave me the opportunity to meet people working in different industries, functions, and cities.
I was initially drawn to the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program due to its reputation within the tax world and its one year duration. As someone with approximately 10 years of tax related experience, I felt it could offer me the ability to become familiar and comfortable speaking to a much broader section of the internal revenue code than I previously was. While I felt that I had made progress in my tax career before the MST program, I was looking for something that could provide me with a strong positive distinction and would allow me to compete with the very best. I was ultimately searching for a curriculum that would help further develop my technical and soft skills to gain a competitive advantage.
As a working professional, I found the program to be challenging. The technical and presentation aspects of the program, (i.e., the learning, understanding and comprehensive communication of the technical matter) were embedded as significant focus areas in a large portion of the classes. It is an accelerated program, and requires significant time and effort. But ultimately I felt my prior experience in the tax industry had prepared me well for the program, as I had become accustomed to fast turnaround and short deadlines. Also, the instructors were world class professionals. They are the ones that really make this program great. I can’t speak highly enough about them other than to say they are truly great and I am better off from having learned and spent time with each of them.
Upon graduation, I am a better equipped tax professional, undoubtedly. Looking back, I have gotten to know people and code sections, I have received kindness and trust, I have found friendship and knowledge.
Early in my career I worked mostly in general accounting and never considered tax as a specialized career choice. As I was assigned more and more tax related responsibilities with each accounting position I had, I relied heavily on the knowledge I obtained from the tax courses I took while pursuing my undergraduate and graduate Accounting degrees. It wasn’t until I worked a secondment position in the international tax department of Morton Salt’s parent company, K+S Aktiengesellschaft in Kassel, Germany, that I realized my overall tax knowledge was severely lacking. I needed to find a graduate tax program that would fit my needs and enable me to become a complete tax professional.
I chose the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program for several reasons. The first reason was because of the program’s overall quality and highly ranked standing as the top MST program in the country. Second, it was a specialized accelerated degree program designed to equip students with the tax skills and knowledge to expand their areas of expertise within one year. And lastly, I felt that the Director of the program and the rest of the highly recognized faculty truly cared about the students and their aspirations. Choosing the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program was the right choice for me both personally and professionally.
The program has a very supportive environment for students and gives you an immediate network of colleagues in different areas of Taxation. This gives you a unique opportunity to learn the most current relevant developments in tax not only through the rigorous curriculum, but also from each other. Also, the accessible downtown Chicago location and Friday and Saturday classes allowed me to easily balance work and school.
I feel that the skills and knowledge I gained in the program have proven to be most valuable to me in my current position at Morton Salt and will continue to benefit me throughout my career. Through the program, I now have the highly technical and demanding skills required for tax planning and strategy. The ILLINOIS MS Tax Program has truly helped me to achieve my goal of becoming a complete tax professional!
International Tax Senior Consultant
Deloitte Tax LLP
Years of experience: 4
Obtaining a graduate level degree was high amongst my goals even before I started my undergraduate studies. However, life tends to send people down different paths. After starting my family in my early years of undergrad, I decided to accelerate my pursuit to obtain the 150 credits needed to sit for the CPA exams. I obtained my 150 credits in four years by double majoring in accounting and finance instead of taking the fifth year master’s program route. Very shortly after graduation, I was tossed into the mainstream Big 4 accounting experience in downtown Chicago, focusing on international taxation. I quickly obtained my CPA, and I was thrilled with the excellent international specific tax training I was receiving at my firm. However, I did worry that I was narrowing my view of tax too early in my career. That is what led me to go back to school.
It did not take long for me to decide on the LLINOIS MS Tax Program in Chicago. The program was highly recommended and supported by my firm, and it was conveniently located down the street. The most significant aspects about the program for me included its (i) prestige in the market place, (ii) one year graduation date, and (iii) convenient class schedule for a working professional. With my ever-growing family, working in a very technical and onerous group in Big 4 accounting, and a driven wife in her third year of law school, I decided to take on another challenge and pursue my graduate degree by attending the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program in Chicago.
The course work was challenging and fast paced, but I am truly happy I attended the program. I started the program wanting to advance my tax technical knowledge as well as fill gaps between what I had learned in undergrad and in my professional career, and the program helped me do just that. I highly recommend anyone looking to be a long-term tax professional to think about advancing their career by attending the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program in Chicago.
After graduating from Northern Illinois University with a graduate degree in Accounting, I started my career in the field of taxation at KPMG LLP, a big 4 public accounting firm. After a little over three years, I went back to China and worked at KPMG China Advisory Ltd for two years. In 2012, I transferred back to the Chicago office and worked in the same group. The first half year was challenging when I returned to the States. Not only did I have to settle in, but I also had to get myself up to speed with the US tax regulations, which was the most challenging part.
At this point in time, I knew it is time to refresh my knowledge. Therefore, I started looking for resources that suited my needs, i.e., a high profile curriculum and flexible study schedule that allowed me to work at the same time. The ILLINOIS MS Tax Program has everything that I was looking for. The professors are from various industries with different backgrounds. During the classes, they shared their knowledge on dealing with real-life tax issues. The MST program also offered various lyceums on current hot topics, such as state tax laws, inversion reorganizations, etc. What I liked the most was the structure of this program. It covered federal, state, and international taxation which provided me with a bird’s eye of the tax system as a whole.
I also made good friends in the class. Being surrounded by smart people made studying not seem as hard and reading code sections anything but boring. I learned a tremendous amount from this program, and am using what I learned in my day to day work. Words alone cannot express how many benefits I took with me after graduating from this program.
I reviewed various masters programs and the Illinois MS Tax Program was the best fit for all of my needs. The one-year weekend program suited my work as well as my personal responsibilities and the staff at the University helped me to make all of my travel requirements work seamlessly. The program exceeded my expectations. The faculty was very knowledgeable and always willing and able to provide relevant examples to further explain and demonstrate the difficult concepts. The team approach to learning helped not only in providing various viewpoints but also presented me with the opportunity to network with other tax professionals and build relationships that will no doubt be beneficial throughout my career.
The MS Tax Program was the next step in my journey to grow into a highly effective tax professional with sound business acumen, strong analytical skills and effective communication and leadership skills. I am tremendously happy that I had the opportunity to participate in the MS Tax Program.
I left undergraduate school knowing that I wanted to achieve an advanced degree at some point, but unsure of the field of study. Having an undergraduate degree in accounting, I began working as a tax professional at a public accounting firm where I largely focused on flow-through entities and individual taxation. It was during this time that I learned of the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program and began to consider applying for the program. At the time, it seemed a master’s degree was just the next necessary formality in order to advance my career. However, I never bit the bullet, and ended up leaving public accounting to take a tax analyst a position at Equity International. In my new role, my focus shifted and grew from one of compliance and domestic planning, to international M&A strategy, planning and compliance. With this shift in my career, I found my tax knowledge lacking in certain areas and began to more seriously explore the cost/benefit of going back to school.
In my renewed search, I again found myself honing in on the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program. As I began to explore the curriculum of the MST program, I realized that this was exactly the kind of post-graduate study I was looking for – something that would enhance my formal knowledge of tax law and policy while remaining directly applicable to my day-to-day work. Further, I was intrigued by the executive style format of the program. In the end, the accelerated pace of the coursework allowed me to get a quality education that has enhanced my career and that I may not have been able to complete otherwise. The professors, a mix of working professionals and full-time university professors, were not only knowledgeable, but also genuinely interested in the careers and professional aspirations of their students.
I am proud to be associated with such a great program and strongly encourage anyone working in the tax profession who wants to enhance their career to consider the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program.
After graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with an undergraduate degree in Accounting, I started my career at a Big 4 accounting firm in Financial Services Tax, an area of tax that tends to be a niche. Over the next few years I continued to work in Financial Services Tax as my area of focus and expertise, but as my clients’ issues became more complex and their organizational structures continued to expand, I knew I needed to broaden my tax knowledge to better serve their needs.
The ILLINOIS MS Tax Program was the only program I even considered when choosing my master’s program because of its great reputation, high recommendations from alums, and its rigorous and diverse plan of study. I also knew I wanted to learn while working and the Friday and Saturday classes worked really well for me. Additionally, I needed a structured program that forced me to explore topics and areas of tax that I would have not otherwise chosen for myself. The ILLINOIS MS Tax Program had set courses to be taken each semester, and I found the corporate income taxation and corporate reorganization classes particularly helpful since I had the least experience in these areas and was seeing them more and more within my practice.
I really appreciated that the professors were a mix of long-time educators from the Urbana-Champaign campus and experienced professionals who have worked in the industry. All the professors brought real-life scenarios to the classroom to illustrate concepts, which is the type of learning that resonates with me the most. One of the best takeaways from this program was the networking with my colleagues and classmates. The quality of students was really impressive as everyone had a diverse tax background which contributed to critical thinking and thoughtful discussions during group projects and class lectures. These connections are ones that I know I can count on as my career continues to progress.
The ILLINOIS MS Tax Program was the right choice for me. I explored accounting programs offered by Chicago-based schools and narrowed it down to two, but ILLINOIS was not one of them since I was unaware of its Chicago-based program. Being an ILLINOIS undergraduate alum, I decided to compare the curriculum of the two programs to an MS in Accountancy program offered by ILLINOIS on its Urbana-Champaign campus to be sure that those programs could live up to the ILLINOIS standard. It was then that I discovered that ILLINOIS had what I was looking for – a tax program that was located in Chicago.
The Program introduced me to areas that I had always been interested in, such as international taxation. And other courses, such as tax research and tax decision making, improved my ability to narrow down the solution process. In addition, the instructors brought real life knowledge relevant in today’s tax world to the classroom. Overall, the curriculum deepened my existing knowledge and honed the skills I needed to become a more confident tax professional.
I also had the pleasure of working with team members that shared similar goals. There was a nice balance between team and individual work which fostered a high level of involvement in the program. Although it was a tough year, looking back on it now, it was a great year. It was common to discuss a topic in class and think, “I have seen this at work,” but it was rewarding for me to be at work with a new assignment and say, “I just went over this in class.”
Choosing a college or university in the United Sates that will provide you with the tools to succeed is a difficult decision for any international student. The location, efficiency of earning a high-quality education, and experiences to be gained from living in Chicago were the reasons I chose the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program.
The ILLINOIS MS Tax Program has exceptionally qualified professors with professional experience that translates into effective and interactive learning. While the “formal instruction” was extraordinary, I particularly enjoyed the open class discussions with fellow students. In every class, there were students whose personal experiences related to the subject matter, and they offered diverse and real-world perspectives that enriched everyone tremendously. The professors were always receptive to such practical input and it added to the learning experience. With a clear cut curriculum, the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program gave me all the necessary courses in corporate and international taxation to ensure that I have the foundation for a successful career. In addition, the curriculum was designed to develop and strengthen our soft skills, such as communication, which are vital to career development.
The networking events and the facilitated access to the tax community afforded me every opportunity to network with as many prospective employers as I desired. What I took away from the program was an ability to think in a highly disciplined way and to analyze and plan for any tax situation. It’s a great tax program, and quite deservingly, ranked number one in the country. It is definitely challenging, but then again, nothing great ever comes without hard work.
Coming from a general accounting background, I was looking for a master’s program that would help me transition into a newly acquired tax role. The ILLINOIS MS Tax Program more than prepared me my new position.
Three things about the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program really stood out: the world class faculty; technical rigor; and big picture focus. The faculty was genuinely interested in the success of the program participants and did an excellent job of making technically difficult material understandable and accessible. The domain expertise of the faculty allowed for very practical and in-depth discussions about relevant tax topics and events that brought some real color to theoretical conversations. I left the program having significantly augmented my tax technical abilities. The technical content combined with the “bigger picture” focus of the program provided me the ability to understand the nuances of a particular tax transaction, as well as, understand the implications to my organization.
In an era of heightened regulatory requirements and increased scrutiny of the tax function in particular, the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program is a must for any professional looking to add value at a leadership level.
Director, Bergquist & Rossi, P.C.
7 years of tax experience
The MS Tax Program exceeded my expectations. The in-depth curriculum was taught by faculty who were leading practitioners in their fields enabling them to bring to class actual applications of complex tax issues and to share and discuss real life situations. This made it easier to understand the practical application of the topic covered. This was a rigorous program that once completed, gave me a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
Tax Manager, Tenneco Inc
6 years of tax experience
I researched multiple MST programs in the Chicago area and am so pleased I choose the Illinois MS Tax Program. The instructors are of the highest quality. They were able to use their vast experience in the tax industry to give practical examples of all we learned. The knowledge I learned in the program has helped me tremendously in my present position. I have been able to apply the principles learned in the program directly to my responsibilities and have a much deeper knowledge of the overall tax function. Overall, the program exceeded all my expectations, and I recommend the program to all my fellow tax colleagues.
Manager, WTP Advisors
5 years of tax experience
While this program certainly provided me with a solid foundation in additional areas of tax, it also helped me become a more well-rounded professional. A number of great speakers at the lyceum events and workshops focused on the soft-skills needed in order to succeed in today’s business environment. This greatly complimented the time spent in the classroom, collaborating and presenting with other team members.
The biggest strength of the program is the dedicated faculty, support staff, and speakers brought in throughout the year. With their help, the rigorous nature of the 12-month program shifted from daunting to manageable. While balancing the heavy course load and working full-time proved to be challenging, the network I established and the knowledge I gained will undoubtedly continue to benefit me throughout my career.
Tax Senior Manager , Deloitte
10+ years of tax experience
The instructors are some of the best practitioners in their fields and are truly impressive. I especially appreciated the fact that certain classes solidified the knowledge and experiences I had already gained by applying lessons in new ways through projects and examples, while others gave me the opportunity to learn new subject areas. Since the program’s completion, I have referred back to class materials and lessons learned in class on several occasions. I couldn’t imagine that any other program would have allowed me to achieve my goals.
Senior Associate, KPMG LLP
5 years of tax experience
I am very glad I made my decision to enroll in the Illinois MS Tax Program. In addition to learning the history and background of important tax legislation, we were kept up-to-date about where current tax legislation was likely headed. I also liked the variety of faculty, from the renowned professors from Champaign to the experienced tax professionals from top accounting firms. They understood that the students had full-time jobs and came to the program with different backgrounds, and they were eager to help each student be successful, both inside and outside the classroom. It was an amazing experience, and definitely worth the time and effort to invest in the program.