Driven Saint Leo Accounting Major Wants to Help People in Need
Read the story of Tayhana Taylor, a Saint Leo University junior accounting major from Jamaica who is making waves both on and off campus.
Upon moving to the United States from Jamaica to attend college, Tayhana Taylor hit the ground running. And she has not stopped. The Saint Leo University junior, who has already built an impressive resume, aims to apply her skills as an accounting major to help people in need in the future.
The 21-year-old junior is a native of Saint Catherine Parish, Jamaica. The second youngest of 10 in a combined family, she is a 2020 alumna of Wolmer's High School for Girls.
She originally discovered Saint Leo University through a friend. Several other aspects factored into her decision to apply to the university.
“I like Florida because of the weather, and that was an important reason for me,” Taylor says. “I also liked how it was a smaller school because I didn’t want to be in a class of 200 where the professor didn’t know my name. Plus, it ended up being the most affordable for me, and I knew it was very diverse and had a nice Caribbean population.”
In terms of academics, Taylor started out in the healthcare management degree program before switching to the accounting major with an economics minor.
“I learned about accounting in high school,” she says. “I like the analytical side of the field. I enjoy putting things together and figuring things out. I also know that the backbone of any organization’s success is determined by its accounting.”
She also believes Saint Leo’s accounting department is one of the best on campus.
Taylor enrolled in the program and began her freshman year in the fall of 2020. She is also a member of the Honors Program.
Dr. Passard Dean, a professor of accounting, economics, and finance, has been a tremendous support to her.
“As a mentor and academic advisor, I hold him near and dear to my heart,” she says. “He has helped me in terms of guiding me in so many ways, such as how to approach job interviews and find internships.”
In her economics classes, Drs. Patrick Murphy, an associate professor of economics, and Zachary Smith, an assistant professor of economics and finance, have been positive influences on her.
“Dr. Murphy is an excellent professor. He is challenging, but he is so dedicated to helping his students be successful. He is also very patient. Dr. Smith is always there for his students when you have any questions. He is very encouraging.”
She says that every instructor she has had has been extremely accessible.
“There is not one professor I can’t go to and talk to one on one,” she says.
As a student in the Honors Program, she has enjoyed several classes. This includes Faith and Politics, a course team-taught by Prof. Frank Orlando, an instructor of political science, and Dr. Stephen Okey, an associate professor of philosophy, theology, and religion.
“We had some great discussions and debates on the separation of church and state,” she recalls.
She also found a class called Hip Hop and Social Justice, taught by Dr. Ebony Perez, an assistant professor of social work, to be very engaging.
“It was really an amazing class,” she says. “I admire Dr. Perez as a professor for so many reasons. The class showed us that music plays a huge role in social and political issues.”
Along with her coursework, Taylor has gone above and beyond to contribute to two research papers. She published a paper with a fellow student, Sean Gibbons, and Drs. Dean and Murphy titled “Should Financial Derivatives Courses Be Included in Accounting Program Curricula?” The paper appeared in the International Journal of Business and Social Science in December of 2021. She is now working on a second paper, “The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Airline Industry.”
Taylor has lived on campus since starting as a freshman. She now serves as a resident assistant (RA), specifically overseeing 25 students in the Honors Program.
“Living on campus has helped me build community, meet new people, and has made it easier to go to events.”
She is vice president of the Institute of Management Accountants Student Chapter.
“The mission is to bring awareness about finance and accounting to our members,” she explains. “We have mixers with professors, alumni, and CPAs. We offer opportunities for students to apply for internships and network with professionals. Last fall, we had over 15 companies attend one of our alumni networking events.”
Plus, she served as World News Editor of The Lions’ Pride student newspaper for two years. She has also been a peer mentor for new freshmen who are just beginning their college careers. Additionally, she has supported the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, providing free tax preparation to students and community members.
Off campus, Taylor was selected to become a member of the Collegiate Leadership Tampa Bay program through the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce. She is a member of its current cohort. There are 28 students in the group from Saint Leo University, the University of South Florida, and the University of Tampa.
“We meet and get to network with professionals around the Tampa Bay area,” she explains.
The group has visited MacDill Air Force Base, Moffitt Cancer Center, and one of the BayCare hospitals. She even met Tampa mayor Jane Castor through her involvement.
Taylor loves all six of the Saint Leo University core values. However, she says one does rise above the rest for her: responsible stewardship.
“As a college student and international student, I feel an obligation to be resourceful. I have learned that when we do have opportunities to meet with organizations to explore things outside of our campus, we have to be responsible stewards because you have to use what you have and take advantage of things that come your way that could open doors. Also, helping out those in your community is so important as well.”
Last summer, she got the chance to intern with Ernst & Young in the company’s New York City office handling audits and other tax-related projects. She discovered the internship through Handshake, Saint Leo’s online portal designed to connect students and alumni to employment opportunities.
“It gave me so much exposure to working in audits,” she says. “I got to meet so many people there and got to experience living in a different state for the first time.”
The accounting major is currently interning remotely with Cohn Reznick, working on its audit service line. This position has given her lots of practical experience in the commercial real estate field. This summer, she is returning to the Big Apple for an internship with Deloitte. She cannot say enough about how eye-opening an internship can be for a college student.
“Doing an internship really allows you to learn if you want to pursue a certain career,” she says. “Your classes definitely give you a foundation, but getting that hands-on exposure is where you truly learn so much.”
She is not quite sure what her dream career track looks like, but she has a few areas of major interest in which she hopes to work and apply her accounting skills.
“I am very passionate about education and healthcare,” she shares. “Those two things shouldn’t be a luxury, but they are unfortunately for many people. I would love to start my own education consulting nonprofit to provide more opportunities for low-income students to get an education.”