This year, the Lerner College celebrated eight excellent alumni at its 27th annual Alumni Awards of Excellence. In the Alumni Spotlight blog series, we get to know these professional trailblazers with Q&A sessions.
The blog series’ first article highlighted alumna Esther Sportello, winner of Lerner’s inaugural Rising Star Alumni Award, which recognizes recent alumni who exemplify the qualities and spirit of Lerner’s Alumni Awards. The series’ second article focused on Michael McCafferty, director of the Launcher Entrepreneurship Program and Bright Spot Farms and alumnus of the Lerner Master of Arts in Economics and Entrepreneurship for Educators (MAEEE) program.
In this installment, we talk with winner Matthew C. Cohen, assurance partner at Ernst & Young (EY) and alumnus of the Lerner College bachelor of science in accounting. Read on to learn more about the three key opportunities that helped Cohen to succeed, his family’s recent gift to fund the Lerner Director of Diversity Initiatives and more!
Q: How does it feel to be selected for a Lerner Alumni Award of Excellence?
A: I was humbled and honored to be selected as one of the recipients of the 2018 Lerner Alumni Award of Excellence. There are a tremendous number of successful and deserving Lerner alumni, and to be in the relatively small population of past and current award recipients makes the award that much more special. That feeling was confirmed during the awards celebration itself. After listening to my fellow award recipients and learning about their journeys and accomplishments, I knew that I was in distinctive company.
Q: What made you decide to pursue a business degree?
A: I entered the University of Delaware as an accounting major based on the advice of my high school guidance counselor. When looking back, I recognize that having success in my high school accounting class and possessing above average math skills was probably not the best foundation on which to make my future career and life choices. However, when looking back, I am still happy with that decision and pleased with all of the opportunities those skills and degree have provided.
Q: What opportunities did you have during your time at the Lerner College, and how have these opportunities influenced your future career?
A: There are three key opportunities that I had during my time at the Lerner College that most influenced my career. First and foremost was the mentoring and coaching that I received from my accounting professors, who instilled in me a passion for the subject and a desire to excel. That included Jay Gil, who I first met at my freshman orientation and who was my academic advisor throughout my college career, as well as Paul Hooper, Bill Markel, Bob Paretta and Araya Debessay. Second was my involvement with the accounting student organizations at Lerner. Those organizations helped with the identification of career options and provided opportunities to hone my networking and other relevant career building skills. And third was my opportunity to gain an internship with the University of Delaware Office of Internal Audit and Compliance. The internship afforded me the chance to bring my classroom learning to life and translate my education into marketable job skills. It also allowed me to gain direct experience with the University’s independent public accounting firm, which helped lead me into a career that I have been enjoying for almost 30 years.
Q: Why did you decide to give back to the Lerner College?
A: My involvement with the University and with Lerner did not end when I walked across the stage at commencement, and my continued engagement has taken a variety of forms since then. Throughout my career at Ernst & Young, I have actively engaged with, mentored and recruited many of the outstanding students of the Lerner College. In recent years, I have enjoyed playing a more active role through my involvement in the Accounting and MIS Advisory Board and on Dean Weber’s Advisory Board. I truly believe that the foundation of my career success comes from what I learned at the Lerner College and the University of Delaware, and I believe it is important to recognize that benefit by giving back.
Q: Thank you for your family’s recent gift to fund our Lerner Director of Diversity Initiatives! Can you discuss your decision to commit to this, and why this gift is important and meaningful?
A: Over the course of my career at Ernst & Young, I have seen firsthand the benefits of having a diverse workforce and working in diverse teams. I believe increased diversity has made my firm a better organization, and with continued focus on diversity and inclusion, the Lerner College can continue to provide exceptional experiences and opportunities for its graduates. I further believe that with the continued globalization of work, increased diversity will provide opportunities for Lerner students to successfully face the challenges and extract the benefits that come with working in diverse organizations.
Q: What is your proudest career moment so far?
A: Other than being the recipient of the 2018 Lerner Alumni Award of Excellence, I take the most pride in witnessing the personal and professional successes that have been enjoyed by those that I have had the opportunity and honor to mentor over the course of my career.