Accounting Student Finishes Her Master’s Degree While Preparing to “Break into the Stratosphere”

When Emily Woodilla ’20, ’21 M.S. was a little girl, her mother bought her a calculator because she just wanted to push the buttons. Since then, Woodilla pushed all the right buttons, it seems, as she works towards a master’s degree in professional accounting at the Whitman School.

Growing up in Maine, she first fell in love with accounting during a high school course with her favorite teacher and never looked back. Her second love, however, was—and remains—the NFL’s New England Patriots, and football as a whole. So, when she came to Syracuse University on a college tour and discovered she could pursue her two favorite interests, she had no doubt where she belonged.

“A school where I can combine accounting and sports management? Heck, yeah!” she recalls of her visit to campus.

Soon, Woodilla was an undergraduate at the Whitman School majoring in accounting and minoring in sports management and psychology. From the start, she was committed to making the most of her time on campus, inside and outside of the walls of the Whitman School.

“Sometimes accounting has a negative connotation,” she says, “but it’s not boring, and I’m not either. I’m outgoing and I think I’m fun. I want to talk to as many people as possible. I want to look back knowing I made the most of my time here at Syracuse University. I’m ready to break into the stratosphere!”

It was that unbridled enthusiasm that encouraged her to get involved in a host of extracurricular activities. This included being one of only four first-year students accepted into Beta Alpha Psi, a professional service fraternity for accounting, finance and IST majors, her first year. By the time she was a senior, she was president of the organization.

She also joined Syracuse ENACTUS, a student organization that strives to make a sustainable world socially, environmentally and economically through related student projects with a local, national and global reach. “I had no idea of the travel opportunities that ENACTUS would give me,” she says of the many competitions she attended around the country.

In addition, Woodilla was a member of the First Year Players, a performance group for non-theater majors on campus; a resident advisor and a Syracuse University tour guide.

“I really like sharing the love of my school,” she says of welcoming prospective students to campus. “I encourage everyone to attend events—check things out. You never know where a certain activity might take you. That has served me well during my time at Whitman.”

Despite her busy schedule, Woodilla made certain there was still plenty of time for academics. She knew she had the option to complete the 150 credits required to sit for CPA licensure in four years or tack on a master’s degree to meet the criteria. Woodilla credits her academic advisor Liz Turner for helping her create a plan early on that made all the pieces fall into place.

“I was so involved in everything on campus and I took advantage of my time here. I didn’t want to overload my class schedule just to be finished in four years,” she explains.

So, she took a few extra classes over summer and winter breaks, allowing herself time for her extracurricular activities, as well as a virtual leadership program with Deloitte during summer 2020—and she still graduated a semester early to get a start on her master’s degree.

Taking advantage of the Forever Orange Scholarship offered to graduating Syracuse University seniors interested in pursuing a master’s degree during the pandemic, she stayed at the Whitman School and is on track to complete a master’s degree in professional accounting by December 2021. Never one to sit idle, she is also a graduate teaching assistant and continues to be a resident advisor. This summer, she returned to Deloitte for an internship based out of the firm’s Boston office.

Woodilla couldn’t be happier with her choices. She is especially grateful for the support of the Whitman faculty, including professor of accounting practice Ginger Wagner ’92 (A&S), ’03 M.S., MBA, whom she calls “one of my favorite humans,” for her guidance as faculty advisor to Beta Alpha Psi; professor of accounting practice MaryAnn Monforte ’96 MBA for “showing us that there is fun in accounting” in her Introduction to Accounting class; and professor of accounting practice Joyce Zadzilka ’96 MBA, co-director of the graduate accounting program.

While Woodilla is hopeful that her summer internship will result in a job offer, her long-term goal is to work in an accounting role for a major sports team. “I’m going to stay open to all possibilities,” she says, “but that’s the dream!”