University of Tennessee

Leap of Faith Leads to New Career Path

May 26, 2020

“Enjoy the journey.”

That’s the advice Jessica LoVerde, who earned her Master of Accountancy from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business in May, offers to anyone considering a career change.

Upon graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017, LoVerde, who hails from Raleigh, immediately began working as a financial advisor at a global investment firm in Charlotte. After about a year and a half, she says, she realized that going into that office every day didn’t make her happy.

 As she began thinking about other career options, a mentor suggested that rather than continue in finance, LoVerde might consider getting a master’s degree in accounting. Trusting her mentor, she enrolled in the MAcc program at Haslam and moved to Knoxville.

 “Jessica came to us in a bit of a blind leap of faith,” Lauren Cunningham, assistant professor of accounting and information management and director of research for the Neel Corporate Governance Center, says. “Then, in the first week of classes, she heard a presentation from Linda Myers (director of the Haslam accounting Ph.D. program) about what type of research we work on in accounting.”

That presentation, combined with LoVerde’s background as a financial advisor, led her to envision a new trajectory for her career: financial accounting research. During her time at Haslam, she worked closely with Cunningham, who guided her in an independent study in which she read and discussed accounting academic research with a small group of MAcc students.

Cunningham is particularly impressed with how well LoVerde adapted to her final semester’s online learning environment in light of COVID-19 social distancing measures.

“I’ve watched her mature in her inquisitiveness and in her comprehension of academic research,” Cunningham says. “Whereas my colleagues and I are struggling to stay focused in the current pandemic, I’ve watched Jessica tackle highly complex reading assignments with clarity.”

Having completed her MAcc, LoVerde will pursue her Ph.D. in accountancy at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, one of the country’s top-ranked programs in the field.

“To my knowledge, Jessica is the first graduate of ours who will be going directly into a Ph.D. program post-MAcc graduation,” says Cunningham . 

LoVerde’s research will focus on how companies use non-GAAP [generally accepted accounting principles] metrics to influence their market share. She plans to stay in academia after completing her doctorate.

 “I want to research and teach at a top research university,” LoVerde says.

 Now that she has a clear vision for her future, LoVerde intends to savor each step along the way.

 “Rather than considering furthering my education to be a hurdle to a different career, I consider it as part of my new career,” she said. “I don’t want to spend the next five years waiting for school to be over. I enjoy every day that I’m able to pursue my new career path.”

The Haslam MAcc program has held a national reputation for decades, preparing students for professional careers in public accounting in a wide range of business environments.


Stacy Estep, business writer/publicist,