On the PhD Track

PROVO, Utah – Mar 10, 2020 – A Nike advertisement featuring Serena Williams that adorned the Los Angeles skyline read "If they think your dreams are crazy, show them what crazy dreams can do.” For BYU Marriott MAcc student Daphne Armstrong, the ad didn't inspire her to buy clothes or shoes but instead gave her confidence to pursue her dreams of getting a PhD and eventually becoming an accounting professor.

Armstrong graduated with her bachelor’s of accounting in 2018 from BYU Marriott and moved to Los Angeles to begin her career as a member of the real estate tax team at EY.  After a year at EY, Armstrong began looking into opportunities to get her PhD. “I had looked into pursuing a PhD but after looking at admission rates for top programs, I felt inadequate and discouraged. As I was having these thoughts, I looked up, and lo and behold, one of the biggest billboards was that Nike ad of Serena Williams,” says Armstrong. “That message struck me at the perfect time.”

As Armstrong looked to pursue a PhD, she felt she needed to first earn a master of accountancy degree, returning to BYU Marriott in Fall 2019 because of the PhD track the accounting program provides its graduate students. “I love the econ classes I am taking because these classes give you the skills to do research and are directly applicable to a PhD program," says Armstrong.

Armstrong grew up in South Korea and China but always knew she wanted to study in the United States. “Looking at my path now is quite funny because in high school, I never thought I would go into the accounting world,” says Armstrong.

Armstrong took a high-school career assessment, which told her to be an accountant, but she brushed it aside. “I thought ‘forget that, that’s boring. I'll be an engineer.’ I wanted to go to USC or UCLA or Georgia Tech,” says Armstrong. “But after praying, I felt BYU was the right place to be.”

Armstrong quickly realized she did not enjoy engineering. Remembering her career assessment results from high school, she enrolled in an intro to accounting course at BYU Marriott. “I was sold—I had to do accounting,” says Armstrong.

When Armstrong entered BYU Marriott’s accounting junior core, she thrived in the program. During her time as an undergraduate, Armstrong competed in the Duff & Phelps YOUniversity Deal Challenge where her team took second place, placed first in the EY Beam Abroad Challenge, and was awarded the 2018 Outstanding Undergraduate Student of the Year award by the BYU Marriott School of Accounting. “These experiences that I participated in were because of the SOA and the opportunities given to us as students of the program,” says Armstrong.

Armstrong and her husband, Trevor, will move to North Carolina this summer after Armstrong graduates, where she will attend University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the next five years to get her PhD. She plans to research archival tax.

As Armstrong reflects on the fateful day that she saw the Serena Williams ad, she has never regretted coming back to BYU Marriott. “I truly love the subject of what I call ‘accountanese,’ because I feel like I can understand the world of business much better,” says Armstrong. “Much to my husband's dismay, I frequently sing an accounting cash flow statement song around my apartment, and I even dream about accounting sometimes.”

Masters of accounting student Daphne Armstrong
Daphne Armstrong on graduation day in 2018. Photo Courtesy of Daphne Armstrong.
Daphne Armstrong and her family on her wedding day.
Daphne and Trevor Armstrong and on their wedding day. Photo Courtesy of Daphne Armstrong.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Kate Monroe