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Giving Back to a World-Class Program

By Lea Hart

George Pappas had a plan heading into college: two years at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, followed by two more years at North Carolina State University to achieve an engineering degree.

But he discovered engineering wasn’t the right fit fairly early in his time at UNC-Asheville, and instead found a knack for accounting through some courses he took during his time there.

“Math has always clicked for me,” Pappas says, looking back. “I’m a problem solver so accounting automatically resonated with me.”

What didn’t change, however, was his decision to transfer to NC State. Pappas enrolled in the Poole College of Management, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Business Management in 2010 and then went on to earn his Master of Accounting (MAC) degree in 2011.

“That time at NC State gave me leadership experience and shaped me as a person,” Pappas said.

As an undergraduate, he was president of Alpha Kappa Psi, a co-ed professional business fraternity, and then went on to lead the MAC Organization as president during his time in the MAC Program.

“Those experiences truly gave me the leadership skills and strengthened my soft skills,” he said. “I got to know my professors and my classmates a lot better – I will always be grateful for that.”

It was also there, before he even graduated, that Pappas started thinking about giving back. As president of the MAC Organization, he and some of his fellow board members revived a fundraising campaign, “Give Back to the MAC,” soliciting pledges from their MAC classmates that totaled more than $14,000 to be donated to the MAC Program. It’s something Pappas looks back on with pride.

“The goal was to help students get in the habit of giving back to the program that gave us so much,” he said.

In the years since, Pappas calls his career a bit of a whirlwind. He interned at Dixon Hughes Goodman (DHG) and returned there to take a full-time role in public accounting following graduation. That experience provided a solid foundation in different areas of taxation. He remained there until he was approached by a family friend, and fellow member of the Wolfpack, in 2015 with an opportunity to move into corporate accounting at Patheon.

“The big sell for me was the focus on tax provisions for a company that was looking to go public,” he said. “I gained really great experience there.”

Patheon went public and was later bought out, forcing Pappas to move on, but he landed on his feet as a senior tax analyst with Martin Marietta. He spent two years there until an opportunity arose with Epic Games, where Pappas said he had the unique opportunity to help start a tax department from scratch within the organization.

“I was able to get even more experience with management and tax provisions, not just domestic, but also global tax,” he said. “I feel like it really allowed me to propel my career and I’m learning new things every day with an innovative company.”

A little over a decade since he graduated the MAC Program, Pappas can easily make the connections between his career success today and the foundation he received while at Poole College.

“It has helped me, and continues to help me in my career,” he said. “From the fundamentals of accounting to instilling a good work ethic; along with the leadership experience I received leading those two organizations.”

He credits the people he met along the way while at Poole College, as well. In particular, Scott Showalter, director of the MAC Program.

“There are a lot of professors, peers and other people that were impactful, too many to talk about in this article; Scott Showalter was one person that had a very big impact on me,” Pappas said. “The practical, real-world experience that I learned from him, I apply now all the time.”

“I think too, just his way of caring for students, always being there, and also challenging us – I really appreciated that opportunity.”

All of those things together are why NC State and Poole College are still close to Pappas’s heart today. He’s a long-time member of the Wolfpack Club and recently brought his young daughter to experience her first football game. He’s had opportunities to participate on campus as well, through recruiting and in offering his input as a young alumnus to the future direction of MAC Program initiatives.

Pappas is currently working remotely in Virginia and, though that makes it tougher to get back to campus, he and his wife have also chosen to lend their financial support to the MAC Program as well.

“Even if I can’t be as involved in-person as I’d like, making sure the school has funds to reach their mission and better students’ lives is important to us,” Pappas said.

The desire to give back also comes from his own experiences. Pappas paid his way through school and was fortunate to receive some scholarship support.

“Coming out of school and being in a situation where I had a job right away, I was able to pay off my student loans very rapidly, and that was thanks to the foundation and support I’d received from NC State,” he said. “It’s always been important to me to give back to the College of Management and the MAC Program – I think of future students coming in, who may be similar to me, and I want to help give them the same opportunities that I had.”

Pappas said he hopes his support can help the MAC Program continue to be one of the best in the country. The accounting profession as a whole is struggling with a decline in numbers of students entering the profession and he thinks supporting a world-class MAC Program means the program can inspire more future accountants.

“I hope we can help students realize their potential and inspire others to come into our great profession,” Pappas said. “I encourage my fellow Wolfpack, who are able to do so, to help provide financial support or donate their advisory time to the MAC Program. And lastly, go Pack!”

To join George Pappas in supporting the accounting department, please contact the Development and External Relations team.

This post was originally published in Poole College of Management News.