When Double Demon Michael Fernandez (BUS ’07, MBA’17) first applied for
college, there was no question in his mind about where he would go. He was
practically a DePaul Blue Demon by birth, so he only sent an application to one
school — DePaul University. Now as an accomplished accountancy professional and
two-time business commencement speaker, he is paying it forward by bringing his
professional experience into the classroom as an adjunct professor and
researcher at DePaul’s School of Accountancy.
“DePaul was part of my master plan since I was young,” Fernandez says.
“When you weave the whole story together, my mother went to DePaul, my wife
went to DePaul, my mother-in-law went to DePaul, and one day my son will go to
DePaul. We are DePaul. It sounds cliché, but it couldn’t be any truer.”
As an undergraduate in DePaul’s Strobel Honors program for accountancy
majors, Fernandez joined the Midwest Association of Hispanic Accountants (MAHA)
student chapter after receiving a flyer in the mail. Under Associate Professor
Elizabeth Murphy’s guidance, Fernandez became involved in MAHA case
competitions representing MAHA regionally and nationally — earning recognition
for the organization and the university. The experience was invaluable, he
says, because the case competitions enabled him to hone his skills for public
speaking, presenting technical matters and showcasing the knowledge that he gained
“I was a relatively quiet person when I first stepped onto the campus and
didn't have any public speaking experience,” Fernandez recalls. “Through the
case competitions, I had to really know the content, articulate it confidently
and be seen as an expert. I never did anything like this before and presenting
a case gave me a great feeling of accomplishment.”
With his newfound public speaking experience, Fernandez built upon that confidence
and networked at student organization events, gaining exposure to different
accounting firms in the city. He met recruiters during a National Association
of Black Accountants banquet and through these connections received an
internship at Deloitte, the firm where he would work over the next decade.
Before graduating and joining Deloitte in a full-time role, Fernandez earned
the opportunity to be the student speaker at his commencement ceremony.
“I grew to enjoy speaking in front of people and the opportunity to be
the voice of my class really appealed to me,” Fernandez says. “It was a fitting
capstone to my undergraduate career and a huge honor.”
Learn more about DePaul’s MBA in Strategy, Execution and Valuation
After working in public accounting for 10 years, Fernandez transitioned
to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and sought to expand his
knowledge through a graduate degree. There was never a question as to where he
would go, only which degree to pursue. He decided to get an MBA from DePaul
with a dual concentration in strategy, execution and valuation (SEV) and
business strategy and decision making.
“What appealed to me about SEV in particular was performing real-time,
fluid analysis of what's going on in the (business) world,” he says. “It
didn’t feel like a traditional program. The classes were responsive to what is
going on today versus learning a lesson about what happened 40 years ago. The
real world examples discussed in classes represent the challenges that
companies face today, and that really resonated with me.”
Through the program Fernandez conducted research, studying a company's
life cycle and analyzing the challenges and opportunities they are facing. He
also performed SEV research for Professor Mark Frigo, the director of the
Center for Strategy, Execution and Valuation and Strategic Risk Management Lab.
The research focuses on current examples of companies that have either found
success or failure and how they applied various conceptual frameworks, like the
return driven strategy framework.
Fernandez graduated from DePaul’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business
and once again earned the opportunity to give the commencement address.
“My second speech had a completely different perspective,” says
Fernandez. “I was no longer a bright-eyed undergrad looking at the challenges
of the world. I was coming back a decade later post-financial crisis with a lot
of experience under my belt. It’s a new day. There are new challenges. There
are new opportunities.”
Shortly after earning his MBA, Fernandez began working at FGMK where he
serves as a director in the assurance practice and quality control group. His
goal is to use what he learned at DePaul to truly make a difference at his
organization. In addition to continuing his SEV research, he just finished
teaching his first course, Accounting 547 Graduate Auditing I, as an adjunct
professor at DePaul.
“Teaching interested me because I lived in the audit world for so long and
hopefully I can impart some of what I have experienced outside of the walls of
DePaul and use that to supplement what is in the textbook,” Fernandez says. “I
believe that you can read a textbook cover to cover, but if you can't
appreciate that real world application, you are going to have a hard time understanding
why the concepts are important. Also,
my wife is a teacher for Chicago Public Schools, so I have one of the best role
With two degrees under his belt, Fernandez is confident that DePaul prepares
students to think critically and evaluate problems effectively — skills that be
believes students must master to be successful after graduation. Fernandez
knows what it is like to be a DePaul student, so he always takes a step back to
have students see the value in what they are learning.
“Where I am today is all about my DePaul story,” says Fernandez. “If it
wasn't for the flyer in the mail to join MAHA, if I didn’t network with the
firms or give the commencement addresses, I wouldn’t be where I am today. All
the stars aligned the right way for a reason and now I can give back to DePaul.
I believe that if you can give back to the school whether through donating,
research or teaching, the impact could be huge for the future. The smallest
thing, like a mail flyer, can mean a lot for the next generation of DePaul