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IMA Life: Crossing the Finish Line

By Ingrid Zarate
August 1, 2020
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I have learned numerous lessons throughout my life, but the most valuable to me is that, although we don’t all begin at the same starting line, we all have an opportunity to cross the finish line.

 

As an immigrant and first-generation college student, I’ve experienced firsthand how obstacles can place many professional and academic opportunities out of reach. For example, when I declared my major in accounting—as a sophomore at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)—there was only one student organization that offered the chance to network with accounting professionals. Although the organization is a prestigious honor society and it would have been a pleasure to become a member, there were fees involved in joining that at the time were beyond my budget as a student.

 

I didn’t allow my financial hardships to discourage me, however, and I continued to search for new opportunities. During my first week in managerial accounting, my professor, Daniel Siciliano, spoke to us about the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification and UNLV’s involvement with IMA®. That’s how I learned about the IMA Student Case Competition.

 

Participating in this competition marked the beginning of my IMA journey, and it was a highlight of my college career. When the judges at the IMA Annual Conference & Expo in San Diego announced my team’s name as the winner of the 2019 competition, I was astounded. I realized that despite my personal trials and economic disadvantages, there were people out there who were willing to give students like me an opportunity.

 

Another student, Alex Durham, and I were so inspired by the support IMA provided us that we spent our summer filling out paperwork and attending multiple training sessions to establish an IMA student chapter on campus. And by the beginning of September 2019, UNLV finally had an IMA chapter. As I write this, the UNLV student chapter has 95 members! We’ve had the privilege of hosting events with prestigious organizations, including MGM Grand, EY, and Microsoft, and sponsoring other activities to help students learn more about IMA and careers in management accounting.

 

I’m so grateful for the wonderful opportunities IMA opened up for me, and I’m especially happy that the work Alex and I did to launch the student chapter will continue to benefit students in the years to come. As the first president of UNLV’s student chapter, I’ve learned so much, including how to delegate, how to plan professional events, and how to motivate students to pursue the CMA certification. Getting this far has helped me to recognize not only that my future career is in management accounting, but that we are capable of succeeding even when we are struck with adversity.

 

While I may not have had the same starting line as someone who was more financially stable or had a parent to mentor them in their academic journey, I know that in the end, as we strive to overcome our own adversities, we can all reach the finish line. In fact, many times, the people who underwent the most trials and started in the back are the ones who end up at the front. I look forward to reaching my finish line and having IMA support me along the way.

 

Ingrid Zarate is a 2020 graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, immediate past president of the UNLV student chapter, and the recipient of this year’s SCMS (Stuart Cameron McLeod Society) scholarship. You can reach her at zarati1@unlv.nevada.edu.
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