Alex Stuart, a member of the first graduating class of Next Carson Cougs, says growing up in Seattle and seeing drug use and homelessness juxtaposed with wealthy neighborhoods sparked his interest in the divide between prosperity and poverty.
A trip to the Dominican Republic when he was on a US baseball team further touched his heart as the plane flew over homes without roofs.
“The experience caused me to realize how blessed I was and that there isn’t just a dichotomy of wealth but a spectrum,” he says. “As a business professional, I want to be able to enhance people’s lives.”
Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Stuart enrolled at WSU, drawn by the university’s supportive community and business curriculum. Several WSU and Carson College scholarships helped him pay for his education.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” he says. “My goal is to eventually start my own business, and with that in mind, I was set on learning accounting.”
Dual majors, double job preparedness
Marla Meyer, the Carson College’s accounting relations manager, advised him to double major in management information systems to make him more competitive in the job market. The second degree would also help him acquire the 150 credits needed to take the CPA exam.
“Being a Next Carson Coug helped me push myself to the highest level. The best thing about the program is its intention to build students’ leadership and professional development skills,” he says. “It helped me realize how much more I should focus on the process of my education instead of the destination.”
Stuart took on leadership roles in many areas, including becoming a Carson ambassador helping with college promotion and recruiting, a Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living Corporate Scholar creating solutions to improve senior living, and president of Beta Alpha Psi—a scholastic organization for future accounting and finance professionals. He also worked as a certified recovery coach for Cougar Health Services.
“As Granger Cobb scholars, we had a lot of creative liberty for our projects but also had to build our own leadership structure within interdisciplinary teams, which was a huge learning experience,” he says.
Internships solidify technical and soft skills
Internships with McKinstry, a Seattle company specializing in building services, and Deloitte, a Big Four accounting firm, gave him valuable experience with cost accounting, auditing, and formulating projections. Coupled with networking, interpersonal communication, and leadership skills he practiced as a Next Carson Coug, Stuart was well positioned for the workforce before graduating in May.
At the end of his summer internship, Deloitte offered him a risk and advisory analyst position in Tempe, Arizona.
“Whenever I interacted with younger students troubled about what they should major in, I always tried to emphasize that it is not what you major in that determines what you do but how you use what you study,” Stuart says. “I plan to grow into a management position within Deloitte and someday start my own business.”