Saint John Baptist de La Salle (1651 – 1719), founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and patron saint of teachers. This summer Jim Donaldson, Catherine Scruggs, Lance White, and the rest of their classmates filed in to the Soda Center on Saint Mary’s campus to embark on a new journey in a new program. While there certainly was some nervousness and excitement in the room, there also might have been something else as well: a sense of history. Donaldson, Scruggs, White and the other 24 students who found themselves listening to a presentation by Carole Swain from the office of mission on sunny, warm day in June are members of the first class of students to ever pursue a master’s degree in accounting from Saint Mary’s School of Economics and Business Administration. And despite the long road ahead of them, this group is already looking to make a difference.

"I have a vision of working for myself and having a sliding scale pay rate for future clients. I would like to be able to say, ‘pay what you think this is worth, pay what you can afford,’ and then be able to work just as hard for them as I would anyone else,” Donaldson said after new student orientation. "Lasallian values influenced my decision to come here. That was something I wrote in my personal statement. I want to be able to make a difference.”

He isn’t alone.

White, a financial services and data processing professional, is also a part of this historic class and is ready to take the next step. “I’m seeking something more balanced, something more worthwhile,” he said.

“After I got my finance degree I entered the financial services industry knowing that it was something I wanted to learn about, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it forever. It’s hard not to turn on the TV and see some nefarious activity on Wall Street. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a part of that. It’s easy to have your job take over your life, but for me it’s not a fulfilling process. I want to be able to support my family and provide services to those less fortunate. I still want to be financially successful and make a living, but I feel like I can have both,” said White.

At orientation the students were asked to take part in an active listening exercise. Donaldson and his partner were asked to discuss their goals and dreams. Donaldson spoke, his partner listened, and at the end he and his partner had a discussion about the differences between goals and dreams. "I realized it was time to start dreaming differently,” said Donaldson. “After saying my dreams out loud, I realized that it was OK to dream bigger. You start out dreaming and then you pin them back, but that's not really the point of dreams." 

Inaugural M.S. in Accounting ClassDonaldson is hoping that getting his master’s degree through the School of Economics and Business Administration will help him turn his dreams into a reality. The M.S. in Accounting program is 15 months long and follows an in-class and online format modeled after the Hybrid Executive MBA program. Students meet twice a week online, and also are in classrooms two Saturdays a month. The flexibility of the program, the small class sizes, and tradition of Lasallian education is what attracted Scruggs.

“I’m most impressed by the personal and holistic view with regards to educating students,” she said. “Before, I was at a large university where I was lost. Eventually I ended up leaving. They pay a lot of attention to their students here.”

It’s impossible to know now how far this first class will go or to understand how the legacy they leave behind will influence those who follow, but for this first group the future seems bright.

“Walking out of orientation we were excited,” said White. “We were excited and we were hopeful.”

So is Saint Mary’s.

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