NSU School of Business graduates among top five scores for CPA Exam

Headshots of male and female alums

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Northern State University School of Business graduates Kaylee Babcock and Taylor P. Beutler have already achieved success – both have full-time careers in their chosen fields, joining the 87 percent of NSU graduates who say their degree related to their first professional position.

But Babcock and Beutler recently accomplished even more: Both scored among the top five in the state of South Dakota for the CPA exam, a national exam for all candidates to become licensed certified public accountants in their home state of practice. 

“This is such a huge accomplishment to be one of the top scoring CPA candidates in the state of South Dakota,” said NSU Associate Professor of Accounting Dr. Sara Schmidt. “Taylor and Kaylee were both taking classes and working while studying to take the CPA exam. I knew the first time that I had these students in class, they would achieve great things and they certainly have. Their dedication and hard work in and out of the classroom has paid off in a big way.”

Completing the four exam sections often takes candidates more than one attempt on one or more of the sections, said NSU Associate Professor of Banking and Financial Services Dr. Robert Preston. Passing all four sections on the first attempt is a significant accomplishment – and being among the top five scores of those taking the examination is a remarkable achievement.

“It can never be expected that a student would do so well in such a rigorous examination; however, both were highly motivated and accomplished students, so it was not a surprise that each achieved an outstanding score on the examination,” Preston said. “As a faculty member who contributed to the instructional materials in part covered by the CPA exam, it is very gratifying to have students apply their educational experience to achieve an honor which will provide them with the recognition of their outstanding preparation and demonstration of the knowledge they have gained from their studies.”

Internship Led to Full-time Position

Babcock, who graduated with a professional accountancy degree in December 2018, is originally from Aberdeen. She graduated from Central High School in 2015 and is currently living in Bloomington, Minn., where her husband, Jesse, is attending chiropractic school.

Babcock was a tax intern at Eide Bailly starting in 2017, and the internship led to a full-time position – she now works as a tax associate at the accounting firm.

“My internship experience helped me apply what I was learning in the classroom to practical scenarios. I took more away from my courses at NSU after having the hands-on experience at Eide Bailly,” Babcock said. “I encourage all students to participate in internships while in college. They will help you get a taste of the profession you are entering and will help you take more away from your courses in college.”  

Beutler, who graduated in 2016 with a banking and finance degree and a minor in accounting, is originally from Eureka. He now lives in Aberdeen with his wife, Kiana, a teacher at Roncalli Elementary and also a Northern grad.

Beutler first got his foot in the door in the business world during his sophomore year, when he started working for a local bank.

“I am immensely happy my parents advised me that I had to get this job or one like it,” he said. “They saw what I did not see: This allowed me to have my one to two years of experience to be able to apply for an entry level position.”

Now, he works for Agtegra Cooperative as an accountant under the financial controller. “Agtegra Cooperative is a company that cares about the patrons and employees. It is surprising how unique this is.” 

NSU Provided Opportunities

Babcock said Northern provided numerous opportunities to become involved in the community and enhance her classroom learning experiences. 

“Particularly my experiences being involved in and serving as an officer of both the Business Club and the Accounting Club provided opportunities that led to my success on the CPA Exam and in my career,” she said. “Numerous discussions and speakers in Accounting Club helped familiarize me with the format of the CPA exam and inspired me to get started even before graduating.”

School of Business faculty and staff also inspired her to pursue her CPA license. 

“The professors always pushed me to reach my academic and career goals,” Babcock said. “The professors in the School of Business at Northern State University truly care about your success both in and out of the classroom.”

She was especially encouraged by Schmidt, who emphasized the value a CPA license holds and shared career opportunities that come with it. 

Beutler, too, praised Schmidt, who led him into the accounting side of the school and still keeps in contact to this day. 

“Sara was one of those professors that held me responsible and expected me to perform,” he said.

He also credits Preston for his later collegiate successes.

“He pushed me to do my best with hours of work without realizing I was truly retaining; again, he held me responsible and expected me to perform,” Beutler said. “I keep in contact with him quite regularly and consider him a mentor and friend. I’m convinced no liberal arts institution can give you the relationships that NSU can give their students.”

Advice for Current Students

Babcock advises current NSU accounting students to take the CPA Exam – becoming a Certified Public Accountant opens up a number of opportunities in the field. She also encourages them to begin studying and sit for the CPA Exam as soon as they can.  

“Jump in to studying right away rather than allowing yourself to get out of the rhythm of studying. Life is only going to get busier, so take the exam right away; you won’t regret it,” Babcock said. “Studying for the CPA exam is challenging. Set small goals for yourself to reach each week that will help lead you to your long-term goal of passing all sections of the CPA exam. The key to passing the exam is being self-motivated and driven.”

Babcock said she is grateful to family and friends for encouragement as she studied and sat for the CPA exam – particularly her husband and her parents, Bruce and Nancy Kappes.

For all college students, her advice is to get involved. 

“Northern State University has a great relationship with the Aberdeen community,” she said. “Get involved both on campus and in the community. Involvement in various activities will help open future opportunities.”

Beutler advised students to also get involved in the community.

“It is the community involvement that will make gains in your personal and professional life,” he said. “My wife and I are active in our church, St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, LCMS. It is in a place like this that you are able to truly get to know people and make acquaintances, especially if you are not from the Hub City area.”

Fellow parishioners were asking about his exams, praying for him and truly caring.

“It’s moments like these that you realize you are a ‘local,’” Beutler said. “Aberdeen is a great city and one that supports its citizens. My best advice it to become involved as a local and see the benefits/opportunity this community has to offer.”  

Beutler thanked Northern for the best education, and for an affordable education.

“Though cliché,” he said, “there is truly no place like NSU.”

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $55 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.