By Karen-Janine Cohen
In 1994, Jacquie Williams won the Maria Elena Ibanez scholarship, which helped her earn an accounting degree at FIU's College of Business.
Accounting was not her first love. That was architecture. By the time Williams reached FIU, she had already completed two years of prerequisite architecture and interior design studies at Miami Dade College and worked in her field of study with two architecture firms. After realizing that working in architecture as a minority woman would be difficult, she knew she had a decision to make. She would be the first in her family of Jamaican immigrants to pursue a full four-year university degree. Williams chose to enroll in FIU's accounting program, realizing it would more quickly lead to self-sufficiency, while calling on the same skills that attracted her to architecture.
"That is when the light went off," she said of her choice, noting that, however hard one worked on a project as an architect, aesthetic decisions would always have a subjective element. "Accounting presented black-and-white results, and so nobody could question you," she said.
Williams was among just a handful of minority students in FIU's accounting program, and her hard work allowed her to stand out among her peers, drawing the attention of accounting giant KPMG, which recruited her. After three years at the firm, Miami- Dade County provided opportunities for significant professional growth, and she has been there ever since.
When she is not working or visiting with family, Williams can generally be found kayaking, boating or doing anything that involves being on the water. "The water does bring tranquility," she said.
And as a CPA who has a fruitful accounting career, she is now paying it forward. Williams wants to increase the number of minority women in the accounting field, where they are underrepresented. Setting up a scholarship at FIU had always been in her plans. Yet recent events pushed Williams to take action sooner rather than later.
"It was the pandemic that made me look at life differently," Williams said.
The Jacqueline Cecile Williams Accounting Scholarship Endowment will support minority, female-identifying students studying accounting at FIU's College of Business. Williams wants to encourage other young minority women to pursue a career in a field that, for her, has been gratifying and successful.
"If I can help someone who normally would not have the opportunity, that is where I get emotional," she said. "When people don't have the opportunity but they have so much potential, they need someone to look out for them."