Michael Koll
Michael Koll '11 aced the CPA exam and won the coveted Elijah Watt Sells Award.

Numbers add up for this award-winning accounting alumnus

In a business that’s all about the numbers, Chapman University accounting alumnus Michael Koll ’11 has landed a big one – a near-perfect score on the Uniform CPA Examination. The achievement won him the highly selective 2011 American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Elijah Watt Sells Award.

Out of 90,000 candidates who sat for the CPA exam in 2011, only 37 met the criteria for the award. It is an extraordinary accomplishment, says Glenn Pfeiffer, Ph.D., professor in the Argyros School of Business and Economics.

“In 32 years as an accounting professor, Michael Koll is the first student I have known who won the Elijah Watt Sells award,” Pfeiffer says. “Given the scope and caliber of the competition, this is truly a rare and remarkable achievement.  Michael was an exceptional student.  He epitomizes the qualities of so many of our students.  He is an outstanding representative of Chapman University.”

Koll is the only recipient this year from a university in California, and the first recipient from Chapman University. He is currently an associate with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Irvine.

According to the AICPA, the 2011 award was presented to candidates who obtained a cumulative average score above 95.50 across all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination, completed testing during the previous calendar year and passed all four sections of the examination on their first attempt.

When asked how he felt about receiving this award, Koll replied, “It feels really good and kind of surreal. I didn’t go into the exam trying to get it – I just wanted to pass the first time through.”

Koll’s interest in accounting began when he realized he enjoyed his accounting classes at community college. When he came to Chapman he took more accounting classes and had success. That’s when he decided to make it his major, along with business administration. By his senior year he was president of Chapman’s Accounting Society, the professional development chair for Chapman’s business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi, served as a research assistant in the accounting department, and tutored the MBA program’s accounting classes.

When asked what advice Koll would give to current Chapman students desiring to pass the CPA exam on the first go, he replied, “Have confidence that Chapman is giving you a good base, put in the study time and take it seriously.”

Good advice, says Hank Adler, one of Koll’s accounting professors.

“The best we can provide is a great platform for success,” says Adler. “Michael practiced on that platform and perfected the triple back flip with a twist before entering the ‘real world’.”


Dawn Bonker

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