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UM Accountancy Master’s Graduates Receive Prestigious CPA Exam Award

By Jennifer Lea McClure

University of Mississippi

Sydney Ferguson, who earned accountancy degrees from the University of Mississippi in 2020 and 2021, works with KPMG in New York City. Submitted photo

Two graduates of the Patterson School of Accountancy at the University of Mississippi have received the 2021 Elijah Watt Sells Award, the most prestigious certified public accountant exam award in the world.

More than 72,000 individuals sat for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination in 2021, with only 57 meeting the criteria for the Sells Award. The award recognizes candidates who pass all four sections of the exam on the first attempt and obtain a cumulative average score above 95.50.

UM recipients of the award are Sydney Ferguson and Reynolds Spencer. 

The UM accountancy school is ranked first in the SEC and tied for fourth in the nation for number of Sells Award winners from 2020 to 2022, with eight awards going to Ole Miss graduates. 

“Winning the Sells Award is an exceptional accomplishment,” said Mark Wilder, the school’s dean. “We could not be more proud of Sydney and Reynolds, as well as our previous Sells awardees. 

“We are very fortunate to have bright, hard-working students in the Patterson School who excel academically and become leaders in the professional world.” 

Ferguson completed her bachelor’s degree in accountancy in 2020 and her Master of Accountancy and Data Analytics in 2021, both at Ole Miss. Originally from St. Louis, she is employed with KPMG in New York City. 

Spencer completed his bachelor’s degree in 2020 and continued at UM to complete his Master of Accountancy in 2021. He is originally from Nashville, Tennessee, where he works for Ernst & Young. 

Ferguson said she is “incredibly grateful and honored” to receive the award. 

“The master’s program helped me to prepare for the CPA exam by solidifying my understanding of basic accounting concepts while also expanding my knowledge of auditing, taxation and technology,” she said. 

Spencer echoed those sentiments.

“I could not have come anywhere close to achieving this award without the rigorous instruction and support I received both as an undergraduate and Master of Accountancy student in the PSOA,” he said. “The faculty and staff in the Patterson School truly care deeply about the success of their students and prove it by going the extra mile to provide a world-class education and prepare students for both sitting for the CPA exam and entering the professional world.”

The Elijah Watt Sells Award program was established by the American Institute of CPAs in 1923 to recognize outstanding performance on the professional exam.

To learn more about the academic programs in accountancy at UM, contact Jennifer McClure, director of master’s programs, at mcclure@olemiss.edu or Nicole Ethridge, recruiting coordinator, at nicole@olemiss.edu.

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