Alumna Boosts Accounting Program with First Gift to CSUSM
By Brian Hiro
During her improbable climb from a poor girl growing up in China to a partner at one of the largest accounting firms in America, Annie Norviel can point to many significant milestones along the way.
One of the foundational ones from her perspective was her time at Cal State San Marcos, where as a new mother, she earned an accounting degree and developed the skills that allowed her to find a good job soon after graduation and advance quickly in her career.
Now, Norviel is emulating the many people who showed her kindness and compassion on her journey, and is giving back to others. The 2008 alumna has made her first gift to CSUSM a big one – a $50,000 endowed scholarship that will support accounting majors during their time in the program.
“Whenever I make a donation to an organization that I support, it gives me the most rewarding feeling,” said Norviel, who’s a partner and certified public accountant at Moss Adams, which is based in Seattle but has offices throughout the country, including in San Diego.
“Without the education I received at CSUSM, I wouldn’t have been able to meet with and work for a firm like Moss Adams. I wanted that kind of experience to be shared by more people.”
Norviel’s generosity is proving to be doubly beneficial, too. Moss Adams, the company she has worked for since the year she graduated and a longstanding partner of CSUSM, chose to match the donation with a $50,000 gift of its own to the accounting department.
“Moss Adams has a long history of investing in the communities in which we operate, and we’re focused on increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in the accounting profession,” said Gerardo Godinez, Moss Adams partner in charge. “CSUSM’s goals for its accounting program aligned with several of our strategic priorities, and we feel CSUSM is an institution where we can make an impact. We are committed to the success of diverse talent and supporting both the community and students in the field.”
Alan Styles, chair of the accounting department and one of the professors whom Norviel considers most influential in her success, said he was surprised and overjoyed by Norviel’s gift, which he said is among an increasing number of scholarship donations from alumni.
“The gift from Annie will fund scholarships that allow us to attract students to the accounting program,” Styles said. “Accounting scholarships enable students to reduce their employment obligations and focus more time on their academic studies and becoming more involved in the Accounting Society and its professional networking activities. A vast majority of our students are first-generation college students, and becoming accounting professionals allows them to set an example for many in their family and community.”
In making her initial gift to CSUSM, Norviel was inspired by Kyle Casement, a director on the university’s Foundation Board, a fellow CSUSM accounting alumnus and a former colleague at Moss Adams for almost a decade. On Giving Day last fall, Casement created an alumni scholarship to increase alumni accounting outreach, and he has been a tireless champion of alumni giving at any level.
“He really takes the time to advocate for CSUSM, and we definitely need more people like him,” Norviel said. “It's very inspiring how much time he devotes to the school. I started this initiative, and I’m committed to do more in the future.”
Casement described Norviel’s donation as “incredible.”
“Annie is someone who I have always looked up to and who inspires me,” he said. “This gift is a great example of her generosity and support for the university and specifically the accounting program. Not only will this gift have a direct and meaningful impact on current and future students, but I think her contribution and her story will also help inspire other alumni to consider how they might also be able to pay it forward.”
Students who stand to benefit from Norviel’s generosity can certainly be moved by her personal story. She was raised in Beijing in such a state of poverty that she lived with her parents, her older brother and her grandmother in a bedroom less than 200 square feet, without a water supply or heating system.
“It was essentially mud and bricks put together with a roof,” she said.
Desiring to leave China for a land of freedom and opportunity, Norviel moved to the United States by herself after high school. It was a leap of faith, to be sure. She didn’t speak much English, and the only person she knew in America was a friend in Salt Lake City who was more of an acquaintance.
Settling in Utah would have been hard enough, but only a couple of weeks after she did so, the friend informed her that he would be leaving with his wife to accept a job in China. And when the process of applying to U.S. universities proved much more difficult and cumbersome than she anticipated, Norviel realized that she would need to switch into survival mode.
Drawn by the large Chinese community, she moved to San Francisco and rented a furnished room while working as a waiter to make ends meet and trying to figure out her new surroundings. When an opportunity presented itself to buy a restaurant from the owner who was retiring, she jumped on it, using the money that she had planned to spend on college. Along the way, she haltingly improved her grasp of the language and learned essential business skills that were all new to her.
“I have met a lot of great people in this great country,” Norviel said. “That’s also part of the reason I enjoy giving back, because there are so many people who were so generous and extremely kind to me at different stages of my life.”
Norviel eventually moved to the San Diego area and finally was able to achieve her dream of higher education. CSUSM and its accounting program were the perfect fit.
“She embraced the work ethic and dedication to academics and development as a professional that we promote in our accounting program,” Styles said. “She indicated a strong desire to be a leader in the professional accounting community while a student.”
Norviel is just that at Moss Adams, having risen from a tax accountant to a senior manager to a partner. Even the language barrier that stymied her during her early years in America turned out to be an asset in one sense – her ability to speak Chinese has allowed her to serve clients with operations in Asia.
Asked what advice she gives to students, Norviel said: “It’s OK if you don’t know what you want to do when you’re 18. It’s OK to try different things. There may be a detour until you learn what you’re really passionate about, what you’re good at. I didn't know I would be an accounting professional when I was 18. As long as you work hard, study hard, there will be success waiting for you somewhere.”
Brian Hiro, Communications Specialist
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