Spotlight - Fadwa Hilili

Fadwa Hilili

by Lindsay Ederheimer

Fadwa Hilili came to USF determined to leave a legacy. Now, she is giving an opportunity for other ambitious young women to do the same.

Hilili, along with fellow USF business alumnae, have established a $5,000 scholarship for women in the Lynn Pippenger School of Accountancy, funded by personal donations from each woman as well as a matching donation from some of the women's respective employers.

The "Forward Scholarship for Women of Excellence" will be awarded in the fall.

"We all received financial assistance or scholarships from the university, which made a huge difference for us," Hilili said. "We would like to provide the same opportunity for women just like us, who are passionate about career development."

After graduating in 2015 with a Master's of Accountancy from USF, Hilili is now a Certified Public Accountant. She works in the Audit Services department at TECO, a company she has worked for since high school through a co-op program.

"The company culture at TECO drew me in," Hilili said. "At a young age, they gave me such a great work ethic and high-caliber people to look up to. I was given a lot of responsibility and a chance to shine."

Her early involvement in a corporate setting inspired Hilili to take on a variety of professional and leadership roles while in college. She joined INROADS, a professional organization that helps place students with paid internships, enabling her to re-join the team at TECO as an intern in college. She stayed at TECO during her entire collegiate career, often working five days a week while taking night classes. Despite the long days, she took up to 18 credit hours each semester, and earned her accounting degree two years early.

"I was always busy," Hilili said. "Which is how I prefer to be."

Hilili and her fellow scholarship contributors were all members of the Corporate Mentor Program, receiving guidance and mentorship from local professionals. Each woman also earned internships through INROADS, which is where their friendships crossed paths. Hilili was heavily involved with the program, becoming the President of the student chapter of INROADS during her final year of college.

"By leading other interns, I realized I wanted to have a bigger impact on the community," Hilili said.

Hilili kept this in mind after earning her MAcc, becoming a CPA and taking her first full-time job as a Financial Analyst at Disney. The position wasn't in the accounting department, and she enjoyed the challenge of working in a new and unfamiliar environment.

"I was the only CPA on Disney's finance team, which allowed me to provide a perspective that no one else had," Hilili said. "That's what I love about accounting- knowing the foundation of all of the financial processes can take you anywhere in the business."

After more than a year at Disney, Hilili returned to TECO in June, where she handles audit services. Her role is to evaluate internal business practices and ensure the business is operating efficiently while complying with laws and federal regulations.

When asked why, at just 23 years old, she would gather friends together to fund a scholarship, Hilili says that the Muma College of Business and the Lynn Pippenger School of Accountancy provided a multitude of opportunities for her and her peers. It helped them excel academically, network with professionals and gain real-world experience in the workplace. She hopes the scholarship will help young women build leadership skills and inspire them to be fearless in pursuing their goals.

"I would like to see at least half of leadership positions belonging to women in my lifetime," Hilili said. "I want to play a part in making that happen."