Honors College Alum Plans to Use Rotary Scholarship to Hone Understanding of International Business

Dennis Pickens

OXFORD, Miss. – A Mississippi native and University of Mississippi graduate has been awarded a prestigious international scholarship from the Rotary Foundation.

Dennis Pickens, a Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Patterson School of Accountancy graduate, was chosen for one of the final Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships to be awarded. Pickens earned a Bachelor of Accountancy in 2010 and a Master of Accountancy in Tax in 2011. He plans to pursue the Msc. International Business and Emerging Markets at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Since graduating from Ole Miss, he has spent the last year working for KPMG in Atlanta and passing the CPA exams.
“I hope to walk away from the program with a firm understanding of how to conduct business in developing countries and an understanding of where the global economy is headed,” said Pickens, who arrived in Scotland earlier this month. “Culturally, I hope to get totally immersed in the Scottish culture. I would love to learn how to play the bagpipes; I will not be wearing a kilt.”

Ambassadorial Scholarships, the Rotary Foundation’s oldest and best-known program, was founded in 1947. While the Ambassadorial is being discontinued, more than 41,000 men and women from about 100 nations have studied abroad under its auspices. Rotary will continue to offer funding through its District and Global grant programs.

“I found out about the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship through a national scholarship info session conducted by Dr. Debra Young,” Pickens said. “Throughout my time in the SMBHC, Dr. Young did an extraordinary job of keeping me abreast to academic and professional opportunities. I applied for the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship for the opportunity to gain international exposure through humanitarian service, academic and professional development.”

While at Ole Miss, he was awarded a fellowship to study at the London School of Economics during the summer of 2007. A recipient of the McCarty Accounting and Academic Excellence Scholarships, Pickens served his campus as a university ambassador and as secretary of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society. He was president of the Columns Society and ASB Director of Academic Affairs.

Pickens is also an Institute for Responsible Citizenship Scholar, and was selected as one of the 24 students throughout the nation to participate in intensive leadership seminars and internships.

“We participated in roundtable discussions and seminars with the nation’s most prominent public and private sector leaders, such as Gen. Colin Powell, Congressman John Lewis, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and businesswoman Shelia Johnson,” Pickens said.

In 2007, he was also one of 10 Americans to participate in the Merrill Lynch Atlantic Fellowship Program, where he served as an ambassador for the company in London.

He credits his time at the Honors College with exposing him to a variety of subjects beyond just accountancy.

“The SMBHC is the crown jewel of higher education in the state of Mississippi,” Pickens said. “I received a more well-rounded liberal arts education, thus making me a more multi-dimensional individual and employee at KPMG. Also, they do a good job of honing their students’ analytical skills and communication skills through discussion-based classes. I found that the analytical and communication skills I gained from my classes gave me an advantage in a profession known for introverted individuals.”

Rick Elam, Reynolds professor of accountancy, was Pickens thesis adviser and has known him since he was a freshman in Elam’s Introduction to Accountancy course. He said Pickens always seeks new ways to serve and be involved.

“Dennis and I worked very closely on his honors thesis,” Elam said. “The topic was school funding from 16th section land in Mississippi. That research was one of the most interesting thesis projects I ever advised. I expect great things from Dennis because he is so driven to identify and achieve new goals.”

Students interested in applying for the awards from the Rotary Foundation are invited to contact Andrus Ashoo of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement.