Paulina Rocha Salas is a Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduate student at the Marilyn Davies College of Business at the University of Houston-Downtown, and also a proud past recipient of the ACFE’s Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship.
Paulina is in the Accounting MBA program and is expected to graduate in the summer of 2022. Currently, she is employed as a senior associate in Weaver’s Forensics and Litigation Services practice. Additionally, she serves as the marketing chair for the University of Houston-Downtown’s chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants, Inc., and also participates in other organizations such as the Association of Latino Professionals for America and the Texas Society of CPAs.
How did you hear about the Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship and what made you decide to apply?
I learned of the Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship while navigating the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) website. I came across a post about past recipients of the Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship describing their passion and pursuit to becoming anti-fraud professionals. I immediately connected with them but was hesitant to apply for the scholarship because I felt that perhaps I would not be selected. I had applied for other scholarships in the past but had not once been successful. However, I finally decided to apply because my parents convinced me to. They have always been my No.1 supporters and have always encouraged me to pursue my aspirations. I was also influenced by the fact that I had received a job offer that would enable me to grow as a forensic accountant. After a few months, I received the amazing news that I had been selected as a recipient of the Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship. It is a day I will never forget.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
I became passionate about fighting fraud when I began to learn more about financial accounting scandals and the significant effects they can have on many individuals and the community. For example, the Enron Corporation accounting scandal stood out to me the most because it happened in my home city of Houston, Texas. Also, I grew up in a low-income immigrant neighborhood, and I witnessed how my fellow neighbors falling victims to different types of fraud and scams. I knew I wanted to pursue a career that would give me the opportunity to help my community and others like them who were victims of Enron’s actions. By pursuing a career in forensic accounting, which combines my passion for accounting and helping others who have fallen victims to fraud and other unethical behavior, I would be able to do just that.
You’re currently pursuing your MBA while working. How do you balance the demands of each?
I am able to balance the demands of my full-time professional career, MBA course load and participation in extracurricular activities by waking up extra early, maintaining and sticking to a schedule, and plenty of to-do lists. But most importantly, I allow myself time to recharge and I do not fret over the little things. If something does not go as planned, I try my best to maintain a positive mindset and adapt to change. It is not easy balancing the demands of college and my career, but I would not want it any other way. Another important aspect that helps me balance these demands is that I am surrounded by individuals who are driven, supportive, passionate and share similar views as myself.
What are some things you hope to accomplish in the anti-fraud field? (It can be in the next 5 years, 10 years or over the span of your entire career).
The first thing that comes to mind that I hope to accomplish in the anti-fraud field is to inspire others to pursue this fascinating and rewarding field. I hope to mentor and sponsor aspiring anti-fraud professionals, specifically those in underrepresented groups.
Second, I hope to be engaged as an expert witness, as it is a vital role in my occupation and would represent a huge milestone in my career. I recently passed all four sections of the CFE Exam and I am happy to share that I am officially a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), which brings me one step closer to my goal of being engaged as an expert witness.
Third, it would be a great pleasure to be able to become a college professor and teach forensic and investigative accounting as a course at my alma mater, the University of Houston-Downtown. It’s a topic that all future accountants should be aware of because, in the accounting profession, one will most likely be faced with unethical behavior and potential fraud.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in applying for the scholarship?
If you are passionate about fighting fraud, do not hesitate to apply for the scholarship, and do not allow the fear of being rejected to persuade you from doing so.
In addition to covering tuition and fees, the scholarship also awards a one-year ACFE Student Membership and has the potential to open doors for you in the field. Being recognized by the ACFE Foundation has been extremely beneficial and it is a great honor and privilege.
Keep in mind that it is never too early or too late to begin your anti-fraud career, you have just got to take the first step. Believe in yourself and ask for guidance from others in our community.
Through the Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship, the ACFE Foundation supports the education of students who have an interest in pursuing a career in fraud examination. The scholarship provides an opportunity for students to advance their education and anti-fraud career paths. Many of these outstanding and deserving students go on to become Certified Fraud Examiners just like Paulina. The 2022-2023 scholarship committee is currently accepting applications. Click on the button below and find the “Apply Today” link under the 2022-2023 Scholarship Schedule heading.