Earning a degree in the Graduate Accounting Program at the Kelley School of Business has been on her mind ever since Lauren Schlenz, MSA’24, graduated with her undergraduate degree.
“Right after I earned my bachelor’s, I realized I didn’t have enough credits to sit for the CPA exam,” Lauren said. “At the time, I reached out to Program Director Susan Cauble back in 2013 to see what I needed to do to get enrolled at Kelley Indianapolis.”
But the “right” time to enroll ultimately came 10 years later, when Lauren felt she was at the best place in her life and career to pursue a master’s in accounting degree (MSA). Lauren is the Chief Financial Officer for the United States Auto Club, one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious sanctioning bodies of auto racing. Her leadership was supportive of her continuing her education. Lauren’s also married and a mom to two young boys.
“My husband Brian is very supportive, and my kids are seven and five, so it seems similar to how they’re going to school—they know it’s normal to keep learning and bettering oneself,” Lauren said. “It felt like the perfect opportunity to pursue what I’ve wanted to do for the past 10 years.”
Lauren began the Graduate Accounting Program in 2021 and took her time, taking one class per semester. Though the program can be completed in 18 months, Lauren will graduate in 2024 at a pace that works with her life.
“It has been very flexible since I haven’t had to take a daytime class. Everything’s been in the evenings and online. I was nervous about what an online class would look like for me because online courses during my bachelor’s degree didn’t go so well,” Lauren said. “But that was 15 years ago, and technology has really improved. Kelley instructors are really engaging online, so the format is a lot different than it used to be. I found it very beneficial for learning, especially with having two little guys who always like to have you around.”
As she works through the curriculum, Lauren is gaining a deeper understanding of accounting than she was able to get in an undergraduate degree or on-the-job training. She says the Graduate Accounting Program has exposed her to new aspects of the field.
“It opens your eyes to a full circle on how things work—what you can and what you can’t do—and it gives you the knowledge to recognize when information is missing or the right questions to ask,” Lauren said.
Students in this program often find that the advanced accounting knowledge not only prepares them with ample credits to sit for the CPA exam and an advanced understanding of the field, but it also positions them to set themselves apart throughout their careers. Since she is working while earning the MSA, Lauren applies what she’s learning in real time.
“Everything that I’m learning makes me stronger at what I’m already doing. It gives you a deeper, more advanced dive into the accounting concepts and opens your mind to different options and ways of doing things,” Lauren said. “Every day I learn something I incorporate into my work and life. You take a business law course, and you better understand legal boundaries. The curriculum is very relevant.”
Although her initial goal was to sit for the CPA exam, Lauren has learned about other professional possibilities through the Graduate Accounting Program. During a course with Teaching Professor Martin Birr, Lauren learned about the certified management accountant (CMA) credential.
“I didn’t know the CMA existed before he taught us about it. It sounds more geared towards my career since I communicate with a board and provide financials at our annual board meeting,” Lauren said. “Professor Birr is inspiring and encouraging. He suggested that I take his advanced financial course and the nonprofit course, which aligns with my work. During his intermediate accounting course, I took a lot of CPE courses to get more content on the items he was teaching about. I wanted to learn more so I was ready for whatever he threw at me.”
As she prepares for her final year studying for the degree that’s been a decade in the making, Lauren encourages others who are considering an MSA to take it at their own pace and understand that it’s achievable.
“Take it one step at a time. The first step is always the hardest,” she said. “If it’s already on your mind, just think about how good and how accomplished you’ll feel having that MSA behind your name, knowing you did something most people won’t achieve.”