Jun Xie’s smile matched the radiance of the fall colors on a beautiful November morning. An accounting major and president of University of Richmond’s Accounting Society, Xie, ’12, recently accepted a job offer from Ernst & Young to work in the accounting department of the company’s Richmond office following her May graduation.

The accounting work she did with nonprofits while a student at UR helped her land the job, she said. Equally as important, it helped her build a sense of community in a city she now calls home.

Xie’s journey to Richmond began when she left her hometown of Suzhou, China, to attend a United World Colleges (UWC) school in Montezuma, N.M., in fall 2006. UWC educates diverse students from around the globe with the aim of creating a more peaceful, sustainable future.

“My two years at UWC played an important role in learning English,” Xie said, “which ultimately made my transition to UR easier.”

Following her high school graduation in 2008, Xie matriculated at University of Richmond, a UWC partner institute.

She planned to study corporate accounting but was pleasantly surprised when two opportunities arose for her to learn about nonprofit accounting.

The first came during fall semester 2010 when Xie took Accounting Information Systems, a community-based learning course taught by Dr. Valaria Vendrzyk, associate professor of accounting in the Robins School of Business. Students in the class reviewed internal controls for local nonprofits.

“It was an interesting learning experience because the data was real,” Xie said. “Every organization had a different model for documenting things.”

Then the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement awarded her a Burhans Civic Fellowship to intern during the summer of 2011 in the accounting departments of two local nonprofits—Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity and United Virginia, a relatively new microenterprise-development organization that supports individual asset building and community development in underserved Virginia populations. Dr. Raymond Slaughter, associate professor of accounting, served as Xie’s faculty mentor during her internships.

The internships provided Xie invaluable hands-on experience. She set up United Virginia’s accounting system in the QuickBooks program and worked on payroll, invoicing, and billing for Richmond Habitat. But Xie became most animated when she talked about the personal connections she made with United Virginia clients.

“I helped a man from Richmond’s East End develop a business plan,” Xie said. “He has wanted to own a restaurant since he was eight, and now he is 40 or 50. He wanted to open an East End restaurant with healthy, local food at affordable prices. At the beginning, I didn’t think this would be a successful business, but after working on a plan, I think it is a real possibility for him.

“Another United Virginia participant has her own organic farm. Maybe we can connect this East End farm to this East End restaurant.”

The connections Jun made with people in the Richmond community were both personally gratifying and, as it turns out, professionally advantageous.

“Ernst & Young is big on community engagement,” Xie said. “My interviewers asked me questions about the accounting work I did for nonprofits. I will be able to continue supporting nonprofits by volunteering some of my time and financial resources as an Ernst & Young employee. Having professionals build the back end of their organizations helps nonprofits run more efficiently.

“Richmond will be a good place for me to start my career. I already have all these connections in town to people from all backgrounds and age groups.”