Alumni Profile: Lauren Dreher

Name: Lauren Dreher
Degree(s) Earned: BA, Accounting
Graduation Year(s): 2005
Current Profession: Doctoral Candidate, Accounting

We’d love to share more about your professional success with our current and future students – please describe your career path to this point as well as your current profession:

Shortly after graduating in May 2005, I started as an audit associate at Grant Thornton LLP in Dallas, Texas.  I was promoted to audit senior associate in December 2006 and to audit manager in August 2009.  Building on my interest for architecture (I was originally an architecture major at Drury), I spent the majority of my time working with clients in the real estate industry.  Shortly after the real estate crash in 2008, I began working with clients in the technology industry.  I managed to grasp the accounting and auditing concepts unique to the technology industry, but I don’t think my clients liked the fact that I referred to all of their projects as “widgets” (technology was never my strong suit).    

I absolutely loved my time in public accounting, but I was never able to achieve the work-life balance that I needed.  So, in the fall of 2010, I started the accounting PhD program at the University of Arkansas with a fellowship from the AICPA Accounting Doctoral Scholars program.  I passed comprehensive exams in May 2012, and I am now in the dissertation phase.  I hope to graduate in summer 2014 and begin my second career as an accounting professor.  I’ve found that the work-life balance in a PhD program far exceeds that of public accounting.  The first two years were the toughest because I was taking classes, teaching classes, and working on research.  Now, I just work on research.  I have never regretted my decision to leave public accounting and encourage anyone with an interest in research to look into academia. 

How did your experiences in the Breech School of Business prepare you for your professional career?

I think that Breech held us to higher standards than other schools, and I’m grateful for that.  When I started at Grant Thorton, I had already passed all four sections of the CPA exam, and I thought that other coworkers would have done the same thing.  However, that wasn’t the case.  I was the only person in my start group who had finished the exam.  I’m really grateful that Dr. Clayton challenged us to sign up for all four parts before graduating.  Those first two years in public accounting can be grueling and tiresome, but it was much easier for me because I didn’t have to go home at night and spend my free time studying for the exam. 

Were there any specific courses or areas of study that were especially useful to you?

Analytical Methods was extremely helpful in teaching me to question and analyze the details in data.  I’m trying to remember the name of the professor – I think it was Dr. Foltz.  There was also Dr. Clayton’s CPA review course.  I credit Dr. Clayton’s review for giving me the tools I needed to pass the CPA exam.   Several of my coworkers spent more than $1,500 on review courses and still struggled to pass.  Luckily I had Dr. C!

What advice would you offer to a new student beginning their course of study in the Breech School of Business?

Take the career aptitude test from the career center.  It encouraged me to switch from architecture to accounting – a switch that I had not expected but have never once regretted.  Find a minor or an area of expertise that sets you apart from the rest of the group.  When I was applying to accounting firms and PhD programs, my mathematics minor helped distinguish me from similar candidates. 

For the seniors, even if you don’t plan on going to graduate school right away, take the GMAT while studying and test-taking is natural (and do give it your best effort).  Most schools accept scores from up to five years prior.