Recipient of prestigious scholarship looks to make a difference with master’s degree in accounting

KINGSTON, R.I. – Sept. 15, 2021 – Stephanie Vye’s decision to pursue accounting as a career came in roundabout fashion – a class that clicked, advice from a restaurant coworker, a semester exploring the world on board a cruise ship.

In May, Vye graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. And this fall, her journey continues as she begins graduate studies in the College of Business to earn a master’s degree in accounting, aiming for a career as a certified public accountant.

Vye’s goal received a helping hand recently when she was named a recipient of a $10,000 scholarship from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. The board, which has awarded scholarships to 1,623 students at U.S. colleges and universities since the program’s inception in 2011, encourages business students to consider careers in auditing.

Vye poses with an elephant in South Africa during her Semester at Sea in spring 2018.

“I was very excited to receive the scholarship,” says Vye, who lives in South Kingstown. “I didn’t actually know about it before I was contacted by Professor Judy Beckman [director of URI’s master’s program]. I wrote my essay very honestly and I didn’t expect to get any kind of recognition. So, it felt really good to be recognized in that way. I graduated during COVID and I didn’t feel the accomplishment was very significant. This scholarship has given me that pat on the back that I was looking for.”

From an early age, Vye has been interested in a career in business. When she came to URI as an undergraduate, she planned to major in finance or marketing with a goal of eventually owning or working for a business that makes a difference in the world.

But an accounting class with Lecturer Ann-Marie Sacco helped change her focus. She excelled in the class and felt her mind really grasped accounting. Also, recruiters from three of the world’s largest accounting firms – Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and KPMG LLP (Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler) – regularly visit campus. So that was a bonus.

Vye, who has worked in the restaurant industry since she was 15 years old, also received some advice from a coworker, a retired CPA who became her mentor, who told her accounting is the backbone of every business and the best way to understand how a successful business is run.

“He said accounting isn’t just crunching numbers. It’s a lot about people. It’s a lot about building relationships. And if you can understand the financial statement, you can understand the business,” she says.

Her decision was sealed during her sophomore year when she went abroad as part of the Semester at Sea program, offered by Colorado State University. The program allows students to study with a diverse population of students as they travel the world, stopping in such countries as China, Vietnam, Myanmar, South Africa, Ghana, and Morocco.

Growing up just down the road in South Kingstown, the daughter of Colleen Redding and Christian Vye, who earned their post-graduate degrees at URI and work at the University, Vye embraced the chance to travel and meet new people with different perspectives.

“My roommate on the ship was from Texas,” she says. “Even that was a culture shock, but it was so wonderful to have those types of conversations with people who grew up differently than I did.”

One of her study projects was a marketing campaign for Global Mamas, a nonprofit organization in Ghana that hires women to craft unique products that are sold globally online. During a stop in Ghana, Vye met  the women and saw how the business helped them improve their lives, buy homes, send their kids to school.

“I was inspired by my time in Ghana,” she says. “The things that stood out to me most was that they used a traditional business model but fed some of the proceeds back to a good cause. I feel that’s the most efficient way.”

Through accounting, she says, she would work alongside CEOs, treasurers, controllers early in her career. “I need more experience than just a degree,” she says. “I want to use the first 10 years of my career to really gain as much experience as possible and learn from the most people as I can before going off on my own or the nonprofit world.”

This summer, Vye interned at Ernst & Young and has been offered a full-time position for next fall after she has finished her master’s degree and earned her CPA certification.

This fall, Vye entered the master’s program with the highest grade-point average of all  students starting the program, holding a 3.96 cumulative GPA (4.0 in accounting). As an undergraduate, she added to her accomplishments in the classroom by building leadership and organizational skills serving as treasurer for URI’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, an international accounting honor society, and as a member of Beta Gamma Sigma honor society and URI Women in Business.

“I have been lucky to have a lot of professors at URI who really care about their students,” she says. “They really worked hard and they appreciated when they saw a student who was curious and hard working. They always rewarded that. They gave me the confidence to keep digging, to go further than just in my classes.”