Alumnus Shows How Celebrating Diversity Fuels Professional Success


With nearly a quarter of its undergrad enrollment identifying as Asian American or Pacific Islander, the School of Business continues to be one of the most diverse schools within the most diverse university in Virginia. Michael Ly, BS Accounting ’12 and MS Accounting ’13, has been proud to watch the university support students’ distinct backgrounds more and more over the years. “The heritage and cultures of our students are now embraced unlike ever before,” he says.

For Ly, a second-generation Chinese American, higher education was a critical step of the journey in improving his family’s future. While he has achieved so much since graduating, he considers being the first member of his immediate family to attain a degree to be among his greatest accomplishments. “My parents have always supported and encouraged my higher education aspirations since they saw this as an opportunity for me to achieve a better life,” he says. He didn’t stop with the undergrad degree either. Ly returned to Mason to complete his masters in accounting right after his undergrad degree. And it looks like he may have started a Patriot tradition for the Ly family with both of his siblings also graduating from Mason.

Asian American and Pan Asian professional groups play an important role in Ly’s career today as a manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). “They have been supportive in my career as I have learned so much on the job at PwC over the past six years,” he says. PwC’s CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion initiative ensures a workplace that’s suited for all of its employees. Ly credits Mason for bringing so many accounting and consulting firms to campus for networking events. “That’s where I really learned about the public accounting industry and where I wanted to work,” he says. That connection made on campus has propelled him to where is today working within PwC’s assurance practice.

“My Asian American heritage is central to my identity,” Ly says. “Not only does it bring a unique perspective to my social life but also to my professional setting. This allows me to be more aware and sensitive to different perspectives in my teams.” Ly’s heritage has helped drive him to high achievement in a rewarding career, but he knows it’s only the beginning. More than just stories of his family’s past, his culture has molded values that have been passed down from generations. Supportive employers, school faculty, and professional groups make a world of difference in nurturing talented individuals to reach their potential, but family remains the most critical support system, and Ly is honored to know where he comes from.