UM Accounting Masters Graduates Receive Prestigious CPA Examination Award

By Jennifer Lea McClure

University of Mississippi

Sydney Ferguson, who earned accounting degrees from the University of Mississippi in 2020 and 2021, works with KPMG in New York. Photo submitted

Two graduates of the University of Mississippi’s Patterson School of Accountancy have received the 2021 Elijah Watt Sells Award, the world’s most prestigious CPA exam award.

More than 72,000 people 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 try and achieve a cumulative average score above 95.50.

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

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

“Winning the Sells award is an outstanding achievement,” said Mark Wilder, dean of the school. “We couldn’t be more proud of Sydney and Reynolds, as well as our previous Sells winners.

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

Ferguson received his bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2020 and his master’s degree in accounting and data analysis in 2021, both at Ole Miss. Originally from Saint-Louis, she works at KPMG in New York.

Spencer received his bachelor’s degree in 2020 and went on to UM to complete his master’s degree in accounting in 2021. He is originally from Nashville, Tennessee, where he works for Ernst & Young.

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

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

Spencer echoed those sentiments.

“I could not have come close to receiving this award without the rigorous instruction and support I received as both an undergraduate and master’s student in accounting at the LFPO” , did he declare. “The Patterson School faculty and staff truly care about their students’ success and prove it by going the extra mile to provide a world-class education and prepare students for both the CPA exam and to enter 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 examination.

To learn more about academic accounting programs at UM, contact Jennifer McClure, Director of Master’s Programs, at [email protected] or Nicole Ethridge, Recruitment Coordinator, at [email protected]


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