Accounting for success: Centenary University’s Big Two at the Big Four
University’s 150-credit dual major in accounting and finance prepares graduates to hit the ground running at leading accounting firms.
HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) — As a student at Centenary University, Kyle Benvenuto dreamed of working at one of the nation’s four biggest accounting firms. A resident of Waldwick, N.J., the Dean’s List student set out to make that happen with the assistance of his professors.
During his junior year, just before the pandemic hit, Benvenuto scored a competitive internship with CohnReznick LLP, as well as a $6,500 scholarship from the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants. That year, Centenary also recognized him with the Christopher Willis Scholarship in Accounting, awarded for excellence in accounting. The pandemic was no match for his desire to succeed. For more than a year beginning in June 2020, Benvenuto worked as a student associate in Accounting for the Venue and Operations Department at Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp, and followed that up with another internship working with the Finance and Procurement Team there.
Last May, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business Administration: Finance, graduating with a wealth of work experience that paved the way to a full-time job as an FSO assurance associate at Ernst & Young LLP in Hoboken—one of the Big Four. “The business professors at Centenary really worked closely with me to reach my goal of working for the Big Four,” said Benvenuto, who as an undergraduate also served as a tax preparer with United Way and a finance intern for the nationwide auto transportation firm, Autocarry. “Before attending Centenary, I really didn’t have the confidence to succeed. My professors immediately changed my mindset and boosted my confidence. They were always available when I needed extra help, allowing me to learn directly from them, one-on-one. I’m very grateful for all of the business professors at Centenary.”
Cheryl Veronda, dean of the University’s Business, Media, and Writing Department, pointed to the small class sizes and culture of excellence at Centenary as reasons for the success of business graduates. “Centenary’s unique programs, like the 150-credit Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business Administration: Finance, along with helpful, expert professors are really important,” said Veronda. “Plus, our students have so many opportunities to grow and lead. When they’re interviewing in the marketplace, Centenary graduates have a much better value proposition because they’re so well rounded. Having a breadth of knowledge is essential in the workforce today and makes the resumes of our graduates more robust. It’s one of the things that sets Centenary apart.”
Associate Professor of Business Dana Benbow agreed saying,“A lot of auditing firms won’t hire graduates who don’t yet have the 150 credits required to take the CPA exam because they’re not licensed or billable yet. So, from a pure business standpoint, Centenary accounting students graduate with an advantage.”
Senior Darnel Burnette of Irvington is already putting that advantage to work, earning an internship in the auditing and tax departments at Nisivoccia LLP starting last summer. Burnette, who will graduate from Centenary in May, has received an offer for a full-time job with Ernst & Young LLP working on the firm’s assurance and audit team in Hoboken with Benvenuto.
Like Benvenuto, Burnette is completing the 150-credit double major in accounting and finance—sometimes taking up to 22 credits a semester. He juggles intensive coursework with leadership activities, such as serving as Student Government Association president and as a team member of Enactus, the University’s nationally recognized competitive business team. The first-generation college student said, “The education that Centenary offers is really broad. I’ve taken courses in marketing, accounting, finance, and more. Within accounting, I’ve studied real estate, taxation, and auditing. I feel like that will give me more versatility in the job market.”
Veronda is proud of Benvenuto and Burnette saying, “Kyle and Darnel are bright and work hard, but they also have taken advantage of every opportunity Centenary has to offer. They are true Centenary University success stories.”