Alumni / June 12, 2024

Getting in Early on AI at Smith

Jackie Cardello ’93

Jacqueline Cardello
Jacqueline Cardello ’93, CPA, president of GRF CPAs & Advisors, supports investing in Smith School's AI Initiative for Capital Market Research, emphasizing AI's crucial role in accounting and the importance of AI expertise for the firm's future.

Jacqueline Cardello ’93, CPA, president and managing partner of GRF CPAs & Advisors, says urging her firm to invest in the Smith School’s AI Initiative for Capital Market Research just made good business sense.

The Washington, D.C.-based, full-service accounting firm is just starting to use artificial intelligence, says Cardello. “We feel that AI is crucial to the future of accounting.”

So when Smith professor Sean Cao proposed the AI initiative, Cardello and her firm jumped at the opportunity. “We’re interested in learning more about AI and we’re interested in having accounting students learn about it, because it is the future. It’s still new to us, but it’s not going away.”

As director and co-founder of the initiative, Cao wrote a textbook and is designing a master’s-level course about how to use AI in accounting and finance. The book content is so important that he’s making it available for free. He says the book is what first got Cardello excited about the initiative.

“A lot of firms want to use AI, but they don’t know how,” says Cao.

Cardello says having access to Smith’s AI expertise and research, as well as access to students who understand how to use the technology, is a boon for GRF.

“We want to see research on AI, programs on AI and education about AI,” says Cardello. “We want to see it continue and expand and we want more students attracted to the profession.”

Nationwide, there is a shortage of accountants as workers retire and the number of graduates going into accounting drops. Cardello hopes more students find the same passion she did for accounting – an interest she never expected when she was an undergraduate. “Accounting was the last thing on my radar,” she says.

Her father was an accountant, but Cardello wrote off the profession as boring. Instead, she planned to go to law school. A college advisor encouraged her to have a back-up plan and consider a general business major. “I said I’d check it out because that was a practical degree,” she says.

She says she was shocked by her reaction to her first accounting class: “I loved it. I was hooked. It was like solving a puzzle and everything had an order and made sense. I’m a numbers person and it clicked with me.”

She made accounting her major, and a few years after graduating – after a short stint at a property management company and a small accounting firm in D.C. – took a job at GRF, where she’s been ever since.

Cardello returned to the Smith School with GRF to recruit  students and engage with them in the classroom.

“GRF hires a lot of Maryland students as interns, externs, and as full-time employees. We want to keep feeding that pipeline, keep the relationship going,” she says.

Funding the AI initiative created a true partnership between GRF and the Smith School, says Cardello. “We’re comparing notes and sharing information. We’re meeting regularly and sharing what we’re seeing in terms of the demand we’re getting from our clients, where we feel artificial intelligence can help. We’re hearing what they are teaching in the classroom and what the students are asking for.”

The partnership with Smith gives GRF a chance to hear regular updates from Cao on the initiative. Cao says he is also working with the firm on a potential experiential learning project using their data with students.

Cardello continues to visit Smith’s Van Munching Hall regularly to speak in accounting classes. She says when students ask her if she thinks AI will replace accounting jobs, she tells them she’s optimistic about the impact.

“People are afraid that there won’t be accounting jobs, but I think AI is a draw for people interested in the technology and analytics side of accounting.”

Cardello believes AI won’t replace accountants, but it will change the nature of the work.

“I look at it as AI supplementing your daily routine,” she says. “It will save you time in certain areas so you can spend your time adding the human touch, doing the analysis, and interpreting and translating information to clients and the end user.”


Media Contact

Greg Muraski
Media Relations Manager
301-892-0973 Mobile 

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

Back to Top