News from the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy
Passion and Perspective
As a freshman at MSU, Susan Bell took a co-op accounting position with Mississippi Power Company, working for the utility in the summers. Today, the 1984 alumna leads Ernst & Young’s Americas Power & Utilities Sector Financial Accounting Advisory Services.
Having initially considered law school, Bell instead chose to begin a career in public accounting after completing her undergraduate degree. She interviewed with firms in several cities, ultimately taking a position with Arthur Andersen in Atlanta. She started out in audit and found she had a passion for it.
“I really enjoyed figuring out how businesses operate and how they make money,” she remarks. “I was always learning, and I love to learn, so I decided to stay in audit.”
After twelve years with Andersen, Bell became the first woman to make Partner in the firm’s Atlanta office. It was a position she enjoyed until 2001, which brought change and challenges. Her 18-year career with Andersen came to a halt when the firm surrendered its licenses in the wake of a conviction (later overturned) tied to the Enron scandal. Other events, however, helped bring a balanced outlook to career difficulties.
“I was starting my career over,” she says. “It was difficult yet positive in a way, because it taught me resilience. 9/11 and having a baby put the loss of a job in a different perspective. It was hard, but in the scheme of things, not that important.”
Bell accepted a partnership at Ernst & Young (EY) in Atlanta in May 2002, seeing that it offered the most potential opportunity for her gifts and goals. She continued in audit, but most of her time went into Sarbanes-Oxley consulting. After three years she was asked to lead the newly formed Southeast Risk Advisory Practice. Not long after that, she was named Managing Partner of EY Atlanta – the first female managing partner for any major firm in the city. In 2015, she was tapped for her current position, running a national team that serves utility clients throughout the Americas.
The Starkville native is among the third generation of her family to attend Mississippi State. Her grandfather played football for the Bulldogs in the 1920s, and both parents are alumni. Bell benefited from strong female role models: her grandmother was in the first class of women to enroll at State, and her aunt was one of the first women to graduate in agricultural economics.
“I never had any inkling that there was anything I couldn’t do as a woman,” she remarks.
Bell contributes time and energy toward removing barriers for others. She serves on the board of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and is immediate past chair of Atlanta’s United Way chapter. She has also enriched her community through the boards of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Atlanta Historical Society and the Woodruff Arts Center.
Involvement with her alma mater has continued as well. A longtime member and past President of the ASAC Advisory Council, she provides scholarship support and has been a featured speaker for classes and organizations.
The experience that she has to share shows students the value of commitment. Whatever she takes on, be it for career, community or family, Susan Bell puts in 100 percent – and the results are obvious.