Speaking the Language of Accounting

PROVO, Utah – Jun 15, 2020 – Hayden Gunnell not only graduated this spring from BYU Marriott with a master’s degree in accounting, he also left with a clear plan to earn his PhD in the fall, a first-place win at the Lockheed Martin Ethics in Engineering Case Competition, and friends and memories to last a lifetime.

Gunnell grew up in Kimberly, Idaho, a small farming community. He knew soon after arriving at BYU that he wanted to apply to the BYU Marriott School of Business accounting program. “Accounting just made sense,” says Gunnell. “I like how things fit together; it is a systematic way to look at the world. Accounting is the language of business, and for me, I wanted to speak that language.”

The experiences Gunnell had at BYU Marriott were just the beginning of his journey with accounting. Instead of working at one of the Big Four or other accounting firms, Gunnell has plans to earn his PhD. “My career path is different from a lot of accounting students,” he says. “I want to go into academics and do research.”

Gunnell will be heading to Emory University in Atlanta in the fall to begin his PhD in accounting and plans to continue pursuing his passion for research. “The cool thing about research is I get to work hand in hand with practice,” he says. “I really want to push the understanding of what accounting principles do to people and how we can make them better.”

Gunnell says the unique opportunities he was given at BYU Marriott, including competing in the third annual Lockheed Martin Ethics in Engineering Case Competition in February, have uniquely prepared him for this future.

After finishing the Ethics for Accounting Professionals course, Gunnell received a call from the Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics inviting him to be part of a two-person team to compete in an ethics case competition hosted by Lockheed Martin located in Bethesda, Maryland. He was given twenty-four hours to decide whether to accept the invitation, knowing that if he chose to, the next few weeks would demand countless hours preparing for the competition.

Gunnell accepted the invitation and dove into the case with his partner, Heather Siddoway, a BYU civil engineer student from Boise, Idaho. The duo underwent extensive preparation for the competition, including meeting and presenting to faculty, receiving feedback, and looking at the case from different angles. BYU students had won the previous year, and Gunnell and Siddoway felt pressure to once again prove BYU’s capabilities. “I was honored to represent the university and compete,” says Gunnell. “We wanted to bring home another win for BYU.”

During the case competition, Gunnell and Siddoway went up against twenty-one other universities. Though competition was tough, Gunnell and Siddoway set themselves apart by looking outside the box. “The winning feature of our case was stepping back and getting more information,” says Gunnell. “A lot of times, a dilemma doesn’t have all the information, and you need to investigate more. The thing that helped us win was creating an innovative solution that gave the company all the information it needed to make a decision.”

The competition presented the perfect opportunity for Gunnell to put his BYU Marriott accounting skills to use and was a great way to close his chapter at BYU. Though his time at BYU Marriott is over, Gunnell will always look back with fond memories. “Some of my best memories at BYU have been the late nights in a study room at the Tanner Building, working on a group project with my teammates with a lot of caffeine, trying to finish up a case,” he says. “I made memories with classmates who turned into lifelong friends.”

Hayden Gunnell poses for the camera. Photo courtesy of Hayden Gunnell.
Hayden Gunnell poses for the camera. Photo courtesy of Hayden Gunnell.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert