For Kyle Dahl, graduating this summer from the 11-month Master of Science degree in Accountancy program at the Opus College of Business, the experience has been at times intense, but always full of opportunity.
Dahl embraces all aspects of the integrated curriculum, especially the small class size of 22; he considers this optimal for growing a network base of other young professionals within his profession. Perhaps the hallmark of the UST MSA program is the three-month paid internship at a company students are matched with through site visits, interviews and with assistance from their director. The first UST MSA student to intern at Cargill, Dahl worked at Cargill Salt in the accounting and finance department, primarily handling issues with the business unit’s trade promotional accounting.
Dahl describes his classes as collaborative, explaining that students break out into teams of four to five and are able to gain real-world experience through group projects. “Teamwork is huge when you get out into the corporate world or public accounting,” he says. Dahl’s accounting information systems class gave his group the chance to work with nonprofit Lifetrack Resources to create an internal control analysis for the company’s fundraising tracking system. The report contained information on Lifetrack’s current situation and gave suggestions on increasing the efficiency of its processes. The company is planning on implementing the proposed changes.
Kristine Sharockman, director of the UST MSA program, says Dahl got along very well with his classmates and was very involved within his group in her professional development class. “He’s like the glue in his group that keeps everybody together,” she says. Sharockman also asked each group to come up with a team slogan. In her opinion, Dahl’s team’s slogan of “producing a quality, finished product while maintaining a positive team atmosphere” is a reflection of Dahl himself, who she says embodies quality and a positive attitude.
As for his internship, Dahl explains that because salt is such a cheap commodity, profit margins are small and costs need to be maintained with a good transportation budget. “It may not sound [exciting], but it really is very complex,” he said. Dahl also did budgeting for Cargill Salt’s general administrative expenses, product costing and helping along the transition to a different enterprise resource management system, SAP.
While Dahl’s internship has contributed to his experience, it also gave him a window into the future. He has already met with a handful of business unit financial controllers in order to get a higher-level overview of the company and a feel for their work – something Dahl can potentially see himself doing one day. He sees this as a great way to build his network within the company.
Even in the midst of constant vocational activity, Dahl finds time to stay physically active through snowmobiling, ice fishing and playing basketball in a league at Lifetime Fitness. He’s also found ways to connect with his UST MSA cohort members through social events such as bowling, movies and playing on a two-hand touch football league.
Dahl, originally from Minnetonka, Minn., began his freshman year of college in 2008, but had to cut his baseball career short after only a year and a half as a result of an injured arm. Around the same time, he began to develop an interest in accounting. The opening of the Labovitz School of Business and Economics Dahl’s freshman year at UMD was a natural lead-in to business school and brings him to where he is now.
Having obtained his bachelor’s degree just under a year ago, and with just a few weeks left to complete his master’s, Dahl makes a successful career path look easy. For him the key is dedication and repetition. Although his time on the baseball team didn’t lead to a lucrative sports career, it did force him to learn organizational skills to stay on top of his schoolwork as well as his performance on the field. “I took those skills and that knowledge from that year of being a baseball player and applied them to the working world–the skills overlap a lot,” said Dahl. “He’s not afraid of hard work; he’s not afraid to have a goal, to have a picture of where he wants to get to,” Sharockman says of Dahl’s work ethic, adding that he’s also not afraid to fail and learn from past experiences.
“Good things come to those who try their hardest,” Dahl says. He believes that putting 100 percent effort into everything gives him the best shot at achieving his lofty goals. Having secured an offer for full-time employment from Cargill, he next plans to get his CPA license and, over time, work his way up to a business unit controller position–a position that can take 15 to 20 years to reach. Undaunted, Dahl is keeping a cool head and says he’s looking forward to finishing his master’s and starting his career.