On any given day, Melissa Rencehausen ’22 M.S. might wave hello to Shrek, Bart Simpson or even Harry Potter as she heads into work at Universal Studios Hollywood Theme Park, where she is the manager of financial reporting on the finance team. And, while she hasn’t made the trip across the country to meet Otto the Orange yet, she did recently graduate from Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management with a master’s degree in professional accounting through the online program.
A native Californian, Rencehausen has been in the accounting field since earning an undergraduate degree in business administration from Whittier College in 2004. Ten years ago, she started working at Universal Studios near the home she shares in Pasadena, California, with her husband and 6-year-old daughter. Rencehausen had always wanted to do more with her interest in accounting and dreamed of becoming a CPA. So, feeling that the time was right, she began looking into online master’s degree programs a few years ago.
Universal Studios offered tuition assistance to a select list of places, one of which was Syracuse University, so she applied and was accepted into the Whitman School’s online master’s in professional accounting program in 2021.
“Whitman had everything that fit — tuition assistance from my employer, live instruction – which was very important to me; and classes in the evenings that worked around my life as a wife and mom,” she explains. “Three big wins! I was sold.”
Rencehausen says her Whitman classes have given her greater confidence at work. “I now feel more certain utilizing new tools to answer questions that come up in my day-to-day accounting role,” she says of the skills she learned, particularly in Accounting Analytics and Business Analytics. She also credits her Project Management class for helping her to stay organized, move initiatives forward and overcome obstacles she encounters in the workplace.
While Rencehausen earned her degree online, she is very pleased to still have been able to develop a new network of friends from around the country who were also part of the Whitman program.
“These are people I would never have had the chance to meet without attending Whitman online,” Rencehausen says. “Everyone took the work very seriously, and everyone wanted to do well and succeed, which was so helpful to me. I still text them and keep in touch with classmates, and I also know I can always reach out to any one of my professors if I have questions. Working with other online students has been one of the most rewarding parts of the program. It gave me a new perspective and brought me a lot of joy!”
Another thing that brought Rencehausen joy was receiving her diploma in the mail this August. In fact, she had already purchased an official Syracuse University frame to proudly display the master’s degree when it arrived – a symbol of all her hard work and determination. While she couldn’t attend commencements on campus in May, she did get herself a cap, gown and orange academic hood to take graduation photos in on a recent trip to Hawaii.
Rencehausen hopes to translate her newly earned master’s degree from the Whitman School into becoming a CPA. For the next six months, however, she’ll be particularly busy with a couple of characters named Mario and Luigi, as Universal Studios gears up to launch Super Nintendo World with rides and adventures based on the popular video games. But, once that project is complete, she is determined to start prepping to take her CPA exams in 2023.
“I love my job. It’s exactly my world – interacting with people at the park and getting to work in accounting,” she says. “I always wanted to do more with accounting, and, up until now, I felt like something was unfished. But, I’m proud to have a big name like Syracuse University in my back pocket and be able to say I’ve earned my Master of Science in accounting from the Whitman School.”
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