Financial accounting alumna knows all about return-on-investment

DANBURY, CONN. — On a recent list released by the financial site Payscale ranking 1,300 U.S. colleges and universities by their return-on-investment (ROI), Western Connecticut State University is ranked No. 2 among all in-state public colleges and universities in Connecticut, and seventh of the 19 public and private institutions that offer degrees in the state. WCSU also falls within the top one-quarter of all in-state public universities in the nation in terms of ROI. Payscale calculated 20-year net ROI by comparing the total cost of attendance to the earnings of each school’s graduates.

How do these statistics translate to reality? Ancell School of Business 2007 graduate Juliana Marques can explain.

“My experience is that I probably didn’t spend more than $20,000 on my education at WCSU and I make about 10 times that now,” Marques said. “In fact, I was making three times what I spent on my education at my first job after graduating.”

Marques emigrated from Brazil to the U.S. at the age of 18. In order to pursue a Bachelor of Business Administration in Financial Accounting from Western, she had to work during the day, and take night and weekend classes.

“Western’s affordability, the variety of courses it offered and its flexible schedule (including its robust summer program) were decisive factors in my decision to enroll,” Marques said. “And coming here made sense because the university is very inclusive, is conveniently located, and is surrounded by companies in the area with promising job opportunities for someone with a business degree and limited experience. It was a good fit.”

During her senior year at Western, one of those local businesses, Praxair Inc., offered Marques an internship in its tax department.

“Praxair has hired a number of WCSU students over the years because they’ve had good experiences with them,” Marques said. When she graduated in 2007, Praxair offered her a job as a tax accountant — a job with substantial responsibility for a recent graduate.

After passing her CPA exam and working for another two years at Praxair, Marques studied for the LSAT, applied to law schools and spent six months in Spain immersing herself in the culture and learning the language. She moved to California and received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California Berkeley School of Law in 2012, with certificates in international law and business law.

Since 2012, Marques has worked for Baker & McKenzie, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as 2014 “Law Firm of the Year for Tax in the United States.”

Marques is involved in international and corporate tax strategy matters and said, “My work is really tied to what I learned at WCSU. Some attorneys may resist dealing with numbers or lack the business background. I started to become comfortable with numbers, accounting and tax concepts in the financial accounting program at Western. Not only did my WCSU degree get me my first job, but it also allows me to converse with clients and colleagues on a practical level on a daily basis. It’s a differentiating factor and something I use on many of my projects at work.”

Many of her colleagues at Baker & McKenzie attended Ivy League schools and when Marques mentions that she studied in Connecticut, people sometimes assume she went to Yale. “I am very proud to say I went to a state school and made the most of the opportunities I was afforded in whatever shape they appeared to me. It makes my heart grow bigger to think that the survey results might mean that there are more and more people out there like me who will be able to take advantage of the opportunities that a state school like Western can offer. Starting your career without debt is also invaluable. It gave me the freedom to pursue a path that made sense for me, without the constraints of stiff student loan payments.”

Recently relocated from Baker & McKenzie’s Chicago office to the firm’s San Francisco location, Marques said, “In terms of return on investment, I really couldn’t ask for anything better.”


Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.

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