Monica Houston ’90 lives in Atlanta and works as certified public accountant in offices located in Columbia, SC, and Chicago, Il. She has come forward to support our black and Latino alumni through a generous contribution to our scholarship fund. Houston is directing her gift to the African American Accounting Alumni Endowed Scholarship. Below is a Q&A with Houston, which is slightly edited for context and clarity.
Briefly describe your experience while a student on campus.
My time as a student at Syracuse University was great, albeit challenging at times. While at SU, I met many wonderful people, some who have become lifelong friends and one who actually became my lifelong love. Academically, I feel I was stretched and presented with challenges that adequately prepared me for my current career as a certified public accountant, although I did not always see it that way when I was on campus.
Were you the beneficiary of scholarships as a student?
Absolutely, about 80 percent of my college cost was paid for by scholarships, from the NYC Mayor’s Scholarship to those provided to me through the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP). I owe the debt of gratitude for the financial leg up I received. When I graduated, my total student debt load was only around $14,000! For a four-year education at Syracuse University that is exceptional.
How long have you been engaged with the Office of Program Development?
To be honest, I’ve been engaged with OPD since the first CBT gathering (I attended), a cruise on the Hudson in the ’90s. However, my engagement had been very distant until now. I would make sure to read all the information I was sent so I could keep up with what was going on, but I didn’t make any effort to attend events or to give back. That changed recently when God turned my attention toward the legacy I was leaving, and then with only the perfection in timing that can be achieved by God, I gained more insight into the vision of OPD and was reminded of the challenges and needs of minority students at SU.
Why did you decide to make this contribution to our scholarship fund?
Truthfully, my initial decision was due to one thing, a relationship that was cultivated. Although I had recently begun to look for opportunities to give back and expand the footprint of my legacy, SU was not among the options I was considering. However, all that changed when I received a phone call from Rachel Vassel. That phone call lit a fire in me as I was reminded of how extremely blessed I was by the financial help I received while at SU and, in particular, the struggle of being among the first in my family to graduate college. I thought it was time for me to pay it forward so others could experience the blessing of becoming an SU alumnus. There is no doubt in my mind that my being among the population of great SU alumni has greatly contributed to the doors that were opened to me and henceforth the professional success I have achieved.
I see that you are directing your gift to the accounting endowed scholarship. What drove that decision?
As a graduate of the accounting program at SU, I have a huge affinity for those who desire to become a member of this great profession. I also remember the tenacity that is required to succeed in this profession as a minority—not just in school, but also in the industry itself. Unfortunately, there are few minorities who enter the program and even fewer who graduate; during my time there were only three, including myself. It is my desire to not only take some of the financial pressure off these students, but to also provide valuable mentoring and apprenticeship opportunities to encourage them to stay the course not just as students but as professionals in a culturally homogeneous industry where they are typically one of few.
What piece of advice would you like to offer your peers and fellow alumni about giving back?
Oftentimes we strive to become affluent and once we reach that goal forget that we also have a responsibility to be influential. I would like to encourage my peers and fellow alumni to take hold of that responsibility by giving your time, talent, and finances in a way that would not just impact the lives of others on a current basis, but that will affect their futures and more importantly that of generations to come. Investing in the educational success of a student is a gift that has the potential to reap a multi-generational return. To me that’s a legacy worth leaving!
Join Houston and contribute to the newly established African American Accounting Alumni Endowed Scholarship.