Big Four on Campus

Auditing Firms Seeking Diversity and Inclusion Recruit top Leventhal and Marshall Students at Annual Big Four Recruiting Day

August 23, 2017
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If you want to know why Big Four accounting firms come to USC to meet Marshall School of Business undergraduate students the week before classes start, look no further than Aisha Counts ’17.

In 2014, Counts was a nervous freshman from San Antonio, TX. “I was surprised to get an invitation to this reception,” she said. “I’d never even heard of the Big Four.”

But she attended, and came away with a connection to a recruiter at EY, who invited her to apply for the Discover EY symposium, which led to her being flown to New York City for an all-expenses paid trip to meet members of the EY team over winter break.

That experience in turn led to a paid summer internship, which led to further opportunities. “I’ve been on rotation with the company,” she said. “Every summer I’ve interned in a different area.”

Now, as she starts her final semester, she has another good thing locked up: A full-time consulting job offer from EY.

“It’s so cool that I’ve come full circle, from freshman business student to a professional consultant,” she said. “And these opportunities were put in front of me from my first days on campus by Marshall and Leventhal. It has literally been life changing.”

"I’d never even heard of the Big Four. It's so cool that I've come full circle, from freshman business student to a professional consultant." --Aisha Counts '17

Zivia Wilson Sweeney, associate professor of clinical accounting at USC Leventhal School of Accounting, and a co-founder of the Big Four Reception, remembers meeting Counts at an interview for the President’s Scholarship (which Counts won) and inviting her to the reception. “We are so proud of her, and delighted to help match her talents with such a selective employer.”

Matching Talent with Jobs

Big Four Recruiting Day is a big deal at USC, matching the best students with recruiters hungry for diverse candidates. Representatives of PwC, Ernst & Young (EY), KPMG and Deloitte set up for the event on the patio of Moreton Fig August 17, ready to meet a number of interested students with brochures and swag.

“We are proud to be building a student body that reflects the world in which we live." -- William W. Holder, Dean, USC Leventhal

The reception came about, said Sweeney, because Big Four accounting firm partners she spoke to were always asking how they could identify and groom promising candidates from traditionally underrepresented demographics. She approached Tiffiani Frye, director of undergraduate admissions for USC Marshall, who agreed there should be an easy way to connect these students with interested employers. Together they helped create the annual reception, which is underwritten entirely by the recruiters. Milli Penner, assistant dean for undergraduate programs at Leventhal, was recruited later to join the team.

Now in its sixth year, it has, by all accounts, been a breakout success.

“We are proud to be building a student body that reflects the world in which we live,” William W. Holder, Dean of USC Leventhal told assembled students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents and recruiters. “These four firms substantially enrich our programs in many ways, and we could not achieve the quality of education with which we aspire without their many contributions.”

Leventhal is housed within the Marshall School of Business, and while the reception is open to students in both schools (Counts, for example, is earning a B.S. in business administration along with a B.A. in philosophy), the firms recruit students for their assurance, tax and consulting practices across a broad spectrum of industries.

“Frankly, some of the best accounting students in the country are here at Leventhal,” said David R. Merriam, a partner at PwC attending the event as a recruiter. “The talent and diversity coming out of this school means we never miss this event,” adding that even in a down recruiting cycle, the firm saves spots for Leventhal students.