Like most students, Robert Spichiger ’20 stumbled upon his major, and later career path, through trial and error. In doing so, he discovered his love for accounting and tax, a passion almost comparable to his love of swimming.
Spichiger chose to attend Syracuse University because of the faculty and staff’s enthusiasm during his first and only visit to campus. He began his first year as a bioengineering major, following in his father’s footsteps, but soon transferred into the Whitman School of Management for his sophomore year. Although unsure of what area of business to pursue, Spichiger soon found himself drawn to accounting while taking ACC 252 with Joyce Zadzilka, professor of accounting practice.
“Going into the business school, I expected my education to mostly consist of regurgitating facts and following strict rules,” he says. “However, I found Professor Zadzilka’s class not only challenging, but also more dependent on critical-thinking skills than flat memorization. So I declared my major accounting.”
When he isn’t in the swimming pool or listening to Freakonomics podcasts, Spichiger enjoys spending his time expanding his accounting knowledge and sharing it with others. As an undergraduate, Spichiger worked with the Center for Learning and Student Success (CLASS) as an ACC 151 tutor, which ultimately led to his decision to become a teaching assistant for MaryAnn Monforte, professor of accounting practice.
“I really liked working with students and was looking for ways to be more involved in Whitman,” he says. “I met some other accounting TAs during my last semester of undergrad, and after talking to them, I really saw myself exceling as a TA.”
In being a TA, Spichiger was able to gain valuable insight from a professor standpoint as to how much effort and patience goes into teaching a class. “This pushes me to be a more active participant in every class I take and give thoughtful, honest feedback on instructor evaluations at the end of the semester,” he describes.
I MET SOME OTHER ACCOUNTING TEACHING ASSISTANTS DURING MY LAST SEMESTER OF UNDERGRAD, AND AFTER TALKING TO THEM, I REALLY SAW MYSELF EXCELING AS A TA.”
“The position has given me practice explaining things to others, and this has prepared me to be an employee who’s able to share his knowledge,” he continues. “At the very least, I know that if I’m ever in charge of some interns, I’ll be capable of giving them valuable learning experiences.”
Giving back to the surrounding community is also important to Spichiger, who has been an active member of WhiTax during his time at Syracuse, in which he and several others spend their Saturday mornings helping low-income individuals with their tax returns. Additionally, as part of the Renée Crown Honors Program curriculum, Spichiger has spent several of his undergraduate semesters working with Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union in order to complete a thesis on community development lending.
While gaining valuable experience through his involvements, Spichiger was able to discover and solidify his career path in expanding his network during the Big Four recruiting process.
“I was really drawn to EY because of two people in particular: Maddy Brooks and Mike Cyran. I remember one EY event at which Maddy spent a decent amount of time trying to help me understand basis for my tax class,” he recalls. “And I give credit to Mike for always answering my questions, even the really big ones like, ‘How do you feel you’re contributing to society?’ The more people I talked to, the more informed of a decision I felt I was making.”
Spichiger worked on a mutual funds team this past summer while interning with EY. After completing his masters and CPA exam, Spichiger will be starting full-time with EY in its brand new Hoboken, New Jersey office, where he will be working in the financial services tax practice, travelling often to New York City.