Sonja Kuranz is graduating to a position at the Financial Accounting Standards Board

One might expect a student who completed the Daniels College of Business dual BSAC/MACC in just four years—instead of the typical five—would forego extracurriculars—and possibly sleep. But Sonja Kuranz (MAcc, BSAcc 2023) has a way of defying expectations. Not only did she fly through DU’s rigorous 3/2 accounting degree program, earning both a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and a Master of Accountancy at record speed, but she also did it without taking summer classes. She spent one quarter studying abroad and another on a full-time internship. And Kuranz managed all this while maintaining near-perfect grades.

The accounting world has already taken notice of the June 2023 graduate. Kuranz garnered the Colorado Society of CPAs Gold Key award, which honors graduating accounting students with the highest GPA at each school in the state. She’s among an elite group of students from across the nation selected for a yearlong paid postgraduate technical assistant (PTA) position with the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in Norwalk, Connecticut.

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin, native visited the University of Denver with a friend who was considering attending. Kuranz liked Denver and Daniels, and was intrigued by the Cherrington Global Scholars initiative, which helps fund study abroad by providing airfare and visa application fees. Accounting wasn’t in her plans.

“I was interested in studying business, and I knew Daniels had a great reputation,” Kuranz recalled. “At Daniels, we take intro classes: finance, marketing, accounting, etc. I fell in love with my intro to accounting class. As I continued, I enjoyed understanding the inner workings of business and the critical thinking involved with accounting.”

In accounting, it’s not uncommon to run into difficult, complex issues.

Sonja Kuranz

“When a company sells a jet engine, they sell it at a loss because they also sell a maintenance contract with it. The maintenance contract generates revenue over a long number of years. And so, how do you record a sale of a jet engine? FASB determines the rules around how a company would report multi-element agreements like that. It’s a highly technical area, and only the best accountants in the country are selected for these positions. And we’ve been fortunate at Daniels having very good placement for students with FASB,” said Sharon Lassar, director of the School of Accountancy.

Lassar believes Kuranz will enjoy a career boost after her time at FASB because large accounting firms equate a year at the board to three years in a home office. At least a dozen other School of Accountancy alumni have had FASB placements. Kuranz prepared for FASB’s “intense interview process” with guidance from Daniels alumni.

“They were all super kind and helpful. The FASB creates the accounting standards, which are called Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). In the PTA position, I’ll communicate with different stakeholders, such as companies that are trying to implement the standards or investors who are reading financial statements. I’ll help research proposed standards and will have the opportunity to think critically about accounting issues,” said Kuranz.

One area ripe for critical thinking at FASB is cryptocurrency. Kuranz said it may be difficult to apply current standards to crypto assets, and it’s an example of how standards must adapt to changing environments.

Recalling her speedy completion of the dual degree, Kuranz said it wasn’t just solid time-management skills. She started at DU with AP and dual-enrollment credits; the rest she earned by taking 18 credits (the maximum allowable) per quarter. Along the way, she sought challenging experiences outside the classroom. Studying abroad in Spain, she took Spanish classes, an international tax class and an art class.

“I lived for four months with a host mom, who didn’t speak a word of English. After two months, I had a breakthrough with the language. I learned many more words and structures, and most importantly, why they are used in particular ways,” Kuranz said.

After learning audit theory in her accountancy classes, she took on the role of assurance intern during a busy season at Ernst & Young in Denver, where she got to know the inner workings of real-world audits. She performed substantive tests, helped with internal control testing, and participated in meetings as an audit team member. Prior, she did an internship at Empower Retirement.

Kuranz said the accounting program’s focus on communication prepared her for the internship and her upcoming technical assistant role at FASB.

“The School of Accountancy seeks to challenge students and prepare them for their careers.  In addition to developing our writing skills, they give us opportunities to speak in front of the class and to present to professionals,” she said.

As an officer for Beta Alpha Psi, an honor organization for financial information students and professionals, Kuranz planned the volunteer event Project Linus. She and other volunteers made no-sew blankets for EMTs and firefighters to give to kids who are ill, traumatized or otherwise in need. Lassar said the project took place in early 2021 when student organizations struggled to get students involved.

“A lot of employers had not yet brought their employees back to full-time, in-person type of engagement. And Sonja did a fabulous job with obtaining a sponsor and getting the volunteers in,” Lassar said.

Kuranz extended a helping hand to other students, too.

“She applied for and received numerous private scholarships. Always willing to share knowledge, she offered to conduct a session for the younger accounting students on how to apply for multiple private scholarships most efficiently,” Lassar said.

Much like her language breakthrough in Spain, Kuranz believes her work at FASB will facilitate a similar learning experience.

“As with different groups who have a language barrier, accountants and auditors sometimes find themselves distanced from the standards they must follow when creating and auditing financial statements. My hope is to aid in communication between parties,” Kuranz said.