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Student Spotlight

Cassandra Baylous

Cassandra Baylous

"It just clicked." Top accounting student pursues career in tax

December 20, 2013

Cassandra “Cassi” Baylous will graduate in May 2014 with a degree in accounting. She will have more than 150 credit hours under her belt, enabling her to sit for the CPA exam. And, she’ll be the second woman in her family to do so. 

The Parkersburg, W.Va., native didn’t know until later on in her college career that she would be following in the footsteps of her mother, also a B&E accounting graduate, who is a partner at McDonough, Eddy, Parsons and Baylous in Parkersburg. 

Baylous, who has a magnetic personality and constant smile on her face, came to WVU with 33 credits already under her belt from AP exams and an intro to psychology course taken at a community college, which gave her some flexibility when deciding on a major. 

“I was really enjoying biology, psychology and business — all three very different areas,” said Baylous, who began studying accounting exclusively her junior year. “(Accounting) was just really clicking for me. I began to feel that it was a place I could go and excel and my talents would be best used.” 

Baylous has had good experiences with many of the accounting faculty at B&E. 

“All of the professors are amazing. My favorite thing about the accounting department is that all of our professors care and are really easy to talk to. Dr. Ade Neidermeyer is the epitome of a professional. I also really like (Drs. Barbara and Nick) Apostolou and Megan McBride-Shaupp. They’re good people,” she said. 

Baylous said there was never any pressure from her parents to become an accountant. 

“They encouraged me to do what I liked, but I ended up in the family business apparently,” she said. “Some people that I’ve known for years look at me like I’m crazy, because I’ve known for my whole life what I’m getting myself into. It will be crazy for tax season, but that’s okay,” she said. 

Baylous has a pretty good idea of just how much she’ll enjoy the field, with two internships already under her belt. Her first was as a tax season (January – April 2013) intern at Arnett Foster Toothman, where she worked on individual and partnership returns. Her second was as an intern at Dixon Hughes Goodman (Summer 2013) where she was able to see the audit side of accounting and accompany senior management on engagements regarding retirement planning. In the fall of 2012, she attended Meet the Firms with professional organization, Beta Alpha Psi, where she met many people and went through many interviews. 

“It’s a lot of work. For three weeks I was traveling all over the state and into Pittsburgh and D.C. for second interviews,” she said. “I had several offers and I narrowed it down to those two so I could see different size firms and different parts of accounting.” 

Both opportunities allowed her to complete tasks at the same level of difficulty as a first-year staff accountant. 

“It was quite the learning experience,” Baylous said. “At the time I had never had a tax or an audit class. Dixon Hughes Goodman is the largest regional firm in the southern U.S., so it was interesting to see the difference in resources. I also made friends all over the place and learned to use accounting software. It made my tax class so much easier because I could apply (what I learned). I loved both internships, but it taught me what I would like better, which is tax,” she said. 

Baylous has been very active on campus during her time at WVU. The Honors College student has served as the treasurer for the Helvetia, Chimes and Mortar Board honoraries, as the community service chair for the Golden Key International honor Society, and as a student member of the West Virginia Society of CPAs, where she was given the 2013-2014 outstanding senior award. Currently, her most pressing extra-curricular charge is as President of Beta Alpha Psi, the professional organization for honor students concentrating in accounting, finance or management information systems. 

Her main duties include running the meetings, managing the group of officers, and helping them when needed to coordinate community service, outreach activities, recruitment and guest speakers. She also has a hand in the organization of the fall and spring banquets. 

“I like leadership positions. I think that runs in my family. I really enjoy Beta Alpha Psi. It helped a lot for the interview process and in learning about the career,” Baylous said. “In class, you learn the topics and the theory you need to know for your career, but you don’t necessarily learn what the culture is like, or what it is like to actually do what (accountants) do. With (Beta Alpha Psi), you get to hear from professionals and talk to them one on one and make personal connections.” 

Baylous said the organization makes an effort to bring in a variety of speakers to show members that they have many options after college. Speakers come from Big Four firms, medium and small accounting firms, forensic accounting, information systems, finance, industry and government. 

“It’s fun to facilitate the conversations between our members and the professionals in hopes that they get an internship or job,” she said. “We’re hoping that we can bring in (speakers) so that our members can see something they’re not otherwise exposed to.” 

Involvement in so many organizations while handling a full course load is tricky, but Baylous loves it. 

“It’s a little crazy, that’s for sure. But it’s rewarding and makes for a lot of connections. It prepares you for life. There will always be something that doesn’t go according to plan,” she said. Her advice to other undergraduate students following in her footsteps was similar. “Things might seem really stressful right now. You may be in the middle of an assignment with two exams the next day and an event to put on later that weekend. But you’ll look back and say ‘I made it through.’ I think the overall takeaway lesson is to stress less and remember that it will be worth it.” 

Before she graduates in May, Baylous will do another tax season internship with Arnett Foster Toothman in its Morgantown office. Upon graduation, she will join the firm’s Charleston, W.Va., office as a full-time member of the tax department.

“Graduation is a little scary, but I am happy to say I do have a job lined up. I think I’m going to like it,” she said with a smile.