Accounting Student Spotlight

Spring 2015

Oscar Leal-Spring 2015 Oscar Leal

Oscar Leal currently serves as Vice President–Senior Portfolio Manager at Regions Bank in Hattiesburg, MS.  He is the 2014 Fred T. Neely Gold Medalist for achieving the highest scores on the CPA exam of all candidates who completed all four parts of the exam during the 2014 calendar year. Oscar received his medal at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Society of CPAs in June of 2015. Leal has four degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi: 1) a BA in Music in August 2005; 2) a BSBA in Banking and Finance in August 2005; 3) an MBA in June 2006; and 4) a BSBA in Accounting in May 2012. A native of Mexico City, Mexico, Oscar and his wife Agustina have two children. Leal states “I am honored and grateful to have been selected for the gold medal award. The gold medal is an important accomplishment in my professional career particularly considering that I prepared for the exam while working full time. I would like to thank my wife, Agustina, and my family for their unconditional support during the preparation process. This award would not be possible without the world-class education I received at Southern Miss. In particular I would like to thank Dr. Gwen Pate, Director of the School of Accountancy, for her support and mentorship. Lastly, I would like to thank my colleagues at Regions Bank for their invaluable teachings and encouragement.”   

Spring 2014

Amber ColeAmber Cole

Amber Cole is a Certified Public Accountant licensed to practice in Mississippi. She earned her Master of Professional Accountancy from The University of Southern Mississippi and her BSBA in Accounting from Louisiana State University. In recognition of her excellent academic performance, Cole received the Federation of Schools of Accountancy 2012 Student Achievement Award and the 2012-2013 Frederick D. Kenamond Award from USM and she was named as a University Medalist at Louisiana State University. Cole currently serves as a faculty member for the USM College of Business, where she teaches Accounting 200. Before becoming an instructor in the College of Business, Cole gained practical experience in various areas of Accounting, including tax and financial. “I am deeply honored to have been selected as the 2013 Fred T. Neely Gold Medalist. It is truly humbling to receive an award that recognizes hard work and dedication to the field of accountancy,” commented Cole.


Jordan Church Jordan Church

Jordan Church attended The University of Southern Mississippi, where he graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting. He continued his studies at USM, where he earned his Master of Professional Accountancy in 2012. He is currently employed for Piltz, Williams & LaRosa Company in Biloxi, MS. His areas of experience include: tax return preparation for individuals, small businesses, and not for profit entities; audits of not for profit entities; and compilation and review procedures for various entities. “Receiving the Silas M. Simmons Bronze Medal Award is a great honor. I could not have done it without the encouragement and support of my wife, Jenny, and family over this year long journey. I also some of the credit to the fine education I received through obtaining my Bachelors and Masters degrees from USM. The undergraduate accounting and MPA programs at USM are second to none. Lastly I would like to thank the directors, managers, and staff at Piltz, Williams, LaRosa and Company for believing in me and supporting throughout the process,” commented Church.


Spring 2011 

Lee Southwell Lee Southwell

Southern Miss accounting graduate Lee Southwell has been awarded the T.E. Lott Silver Medal Award for receiving the second highest total score on the Certified Public Accountants’ (CPA) exam among Mississippi candidates who passed in 2011. Lee graduated from Heidelberg Academy and Jones County Junior College prior to entering the USM’s BSBA in Accounting program; he graduated in 2003. Lee has recently been promoted to Corporate Financial Accountant at Sanderson Farms, Inc. headquartered in Laurel, Mississippi. Lee and wife Whitney are expecting their first child in November, 2012.

Lee Southwell’s impressive performance on the four-part CPA exam included the following scores: Financial Accounting and Reporting (91); Regulation (94); Business Environment and Concepts (93); and Auditing and Attestation (99). After being named as the 2011 Silver Medalist, Lee acknowledged his accounting teachers and mentors: “I would like to say thank you to all of the professors at JCJC and USM who helped give me the foundation needed to pass the exam . . . [and] specifically like to thank two of my favorite professors, Dr. [Charles] Jordan and Dr. [Rod] Posey.”

We congratulate Lee on winning the Silver Medal and on his successful career achievements in corporate accounting. His performance on the CPA exam provides a towering goal to which those USM accounting grads who follow him can aspire.