Candida at graduationAfter Candida Moyer earned her bachelor’s in Accounting, she moved to Atlanta and started working for a certified public accountant (CPA) firm. She spent the first couple years completing requirements and exams to become a CPA herself. The day she finished her CPA exams, she told her colleagues, “This is the last exam I’m ever going to take in my whole life!”

Candida passed, but she was wrong about her test-free future. She immediately decided to pursue graduate school. “I didn’t want to get a master’s in Accounting, but I wanted a degree that would complement my accounting background,” she said.

A colleague and friend, Jordan Padgett, had graduated from The University of Alabama with a double major in Accounting and Consumer Sciences with a concentration in Family Financial Planning and Counseling. He had only good things to say about the faculty and told Candida they also had a master’s they offered online, so she started researching it. “I was so impressed with the program,” Candida said. Nervous about missing the in-person experience, she started comparing UA’s online master’s program in Family Financial Planning and Counseling to similar face-to-face programs near her. “When I saw the cost difference, I was like, ‘Wow! Alabama is really affordable!’ And when I started thinking about what my life looks like during tax season with 70-hour workweeks, I realized that an online program was the way to go.”

Candida began the program in Summer 2016. When she talked to Jordan about her classes and professors, she was delighted to see how similar their experiences were. “I’d tell him who I had for a certain class, and he’d say, ‘Oh, that’s who I had, too!’ Being able to share that experience with someone who had done the traditional main campus program was really neat.”

To make her experience as an online student as rich as possible, Candida tried to connect with classmates whenever she could. “If someone mentioned in a discussion post that they lived in the Atlanta area, I’d message them to see if we could meet up for lunch. I met three of my classmates that way and it was really fun.” She also took advantage of the unique learning and networking opportunities that UA’s program offered her. “I attended a financial planning conference they told us about and met another classmate and one of our professors, Scott Cole. It felt like meeting a celebrity to us!”Candida smiling

That “celebrity” professor owns his own firm, and Candida said having his practical and experienced perspective was helpful in her education. “He would say, ‘Ok, here’s what the book says – and here’s how I apply that to my clients.’ It really brought the information to life for us.” Another professor that stands out to Candida as engaged and helpful is the faculty coordinator for the program, Eve Pentecost. “I am so glad I had the opportunity to meet her and be in her class. She set up Zoom events where professional guests shared about their work and allowed us to ask questions. I really enjoyed those!”

Candida praised all the faculty of the program for how helpful they are to students. “I could see the passion in my professors – they really cared about teaching us.” She found the online coursework to be perfect for her life and manageable during peak season at her firm. “I didn’t get much sleep during tax season, but I was able to stay on top of my classwork, and it really helped that there wasn’t a set time for me to be in class.”

In December 2017, she graduated and came to campus in Tuscaloosa to participate in commencement. “I really liked that UA didn’t differentiate between the online students and main campus ones. At graduation, I sat right next to Alabama’s kicker, Andy Pappanastos, and that was cool.”

Candida at the Bama By Distance graduation reception with Professor Pentecost in front of a cardboard cutout of Nick SabanAfter graduating, Candida passed the exam to become a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP) on her first try. She began volunteering at a local church to help care recipients with personal budgeting. “Having the knowledge from the master’s program helped me provide even more guidance for these individuals.”

After she finished her master’s, Candida moved up to the role of manager at her firm before getting a call that led to her dream job. “I was contacted by a Chick-fil-A recruiter to work in the family office and I was hired in February 2020. Now that I’m in the role, I see how my UA master’s and that CFP certification may have set me apart. I was mostly hired to do their taxes, but being in the family office, I’m able to assist more with succession planning. I go back to my notes from my master’s coursework sometimes. That program helped give me a baseline.”

Candida said she’s been able to stay in touch with classmates and up to date on their achievements as well as on professional opportunities through a Facebook group that Professor Pentecost set up for students and graduates of the program. Her professors have continued to help her with recommendations and even some financial planning questions she’s had in her career.

“I am so glad I found a master’s program that provided me with the credentials to follow my dreams, as well as knowledge that would help me in my career and personal life. It really is an amazing program.”

Published: January 20th, 2021