To a young accountant, an internship at the Financial Accounting Standards Board is tantamount to clerking for a Supreme Court justice. FASB interns are given unparalleled exposure to technical accounting and to the crafting of standards that underpin the entire accounting industry — which explains why the Big 4 accounting firms line up to hire FASB interns when their year-long tour of duty in Norwalk, Conn., concludes.
This December, immediately after she graduates from Terry’s Tull School of Accounting, Halina Maladtsova will become the seventh Terry alum in the past nine years to walk the hallowed halls as an intern in FASB’s prestigious Post-Graduate Technical Assistant (PTA) program. Maladtsova — who will leave school with three degrees (BBA/MAcc in accounting, AB in Russian) — was chosen as one of six interns from a pool of elite candidates from the nation’s best accounting schools. She will spend a year assisting in researching, writing, and refining the standards of financial accounting and reporting for nongovernmental entities. She is one of six interns who will begin their FASB internship in the winter, and six more cycle in each summer, for a total of 12 internship slots annually.
"It’s going to be pretty amazing," says Maladtsova, who immigrated with her family to Norcross, Ga., from Belarus when she was 10. "It’s pretty overwhelming sometimes to think about."
While some accounting schools are happy to celebrate one or perhaps two FASB interns over a similar time span, Terry’s success rate with FASB interns is noteworthy.
"In terms of the candidates from the University of Georgia, we feel confident that if you’re sending them to us, they’re making the grade," says FASB Planning and Control Manager Jane Gabriele, who notes that Terry is among the accounting programs most frequently represented among the PTA corps. "With Halina, she was one of those people on the interview who wowed us, and I’m sure she’s just going to be wonderful."
"It really speaks to the consistency of the quality of our students and also to the job that our faculty does with our students," says Ben Ayers, director of the J.M. Tull School of Accounting who holds the Earl Davis Chair in Taxation.
The FASB hierarchy consists of five of the top accounting and business minds in the country, and once was chaired by Terry’s own Denny Beresford, now the Ernst & Young Executive Professor of Accounting. FASB’s standards play a key role in the accounting world, and the SEC and FASB often work in synergy. The FASB staff and PTAs operate in an unbiased, Switzerland-like arena where they must balance the interests of business, investors, and the public. FASB interns are handpicked for their ability to simultaneously learn from and also contribute to FASB’s work on complex accounting issues.
Maladtsova’s assigned projects at FASB haven’t yet been determined, but she has asked to work on leases and derivatives.
"I’m interested in leases because Dr. [Dan] Smith taught it so well," she says, "so I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on that."
And while young accounting grads are often intimidated by derivatives, Maladtsova wants to take a crack at them.
Maladtsova’s interest in accounting germinated during a high school accounting class, and gained momentum during Terry’s Accounting High School Residency Program on campus in Athens. Ethnically Russian, she still holds a Belarussian passport. And as a Bernard Ramsey Honors Scholarship recipient she has a travel-study grant that allowed her to spend two months camping in the western United States while studying archaeology and ecology.
"My mom thought I was not going to survive, but it worked out really well," says Maladtsova, who will bring her adventurous spirit to her work at FASB.
"I’m excited to get away from the strict this-is-right, this-is-wrong," says Maladtsova. "In what we’ve seen from our master’s program, there isn’t a lot of black and white, there’s a lot of gray."
It’s the way this talented 22-year-old navigates those gray areas that prompted Terry faculty members to nominate her for the FASB internship (accounting schools are limited to nominating one student per cycle).
"She is a thinker, not someone who just accepts something the first way she sees it," says accounting professor Dan Smith. "She really does take something and play with it in her mind."
Maladtsova has a good idea of where she wants to go after her year at FASB. It involves three to five years of work in the United States, and then abroad.
"The two countries I’m interested in are Spain and Russia," she says, "because I have the languages."
Maladtsova’s mother was worried she wouldn’t survive camping, but this future Terry grad is expected to thrive in the wide world of international accounting.