MAcc student, athlete seeks success in the classroom and on the track

KU School of Business
4 min readMay 7, 2024
Chandler Gibbens

Chandler Gibbens does not have a favorite traditional KU memory. But as a track and cross-country athlete, there is one that stands out. In 2023, at the Stanford Invitational Track and Field competition, he broke the men’s 5K record and earned a personal record with a time of 13:28.71. Gibbens shared the moment with his father, who had been watching from the sidelines and ran to embrace him as he crossed the finish line.

Gibbens has an impressive record for track and field and cross country. In high school, the Columbia, Missouri, native won a combined eight letters, and he and his team were the 2018 Sectional Cross Country Champions and the 2019 District Champions.

Despite family ties to the University of Missouri, Gibbens found his calling at the University of Kansas after a call from the university’s track coach and a visit to Lawrence. From there, Gibbens was sold on KU. He was the team captain for the KU cross country team in 2023 and won both the men’s 5K and 10K at the 2023 Big 12 Championship, making him the first Jayhawk in history to complete this distance sweep.

Juggling academic demands with training and competing for cross-country and track takes focus and commitment, but Gibbens found a method that works for him.

Gibbens running at a cross country event.

“It was definitely tough,” Gibbens said. “I feel like it took me a while to find a good balance, when your goal is to do a workout or go to practice, not be distracted by school or outside chatter or anything. It’s setting boundaries and figuring out what times you need to be doing one thing and what times you need to be doing another thing.”

Initially majoring in political science, Gibbens realized he would complete that major sooner than he had anticipated, and seeking a challenge, he began thinking of ways to double-major.

“As COVID was winding up, I thought I was going to finish up political science quickly, so I started looking for something else to double-major in, and I was waffling between finance and accounting,” Gibbens said.

Gibbens enrolled in two introductory accounting classes and found he enjoyed them. Over time, accounting became his primary major. He always appreciated math and statistics but never thought he would focus on a field that specializes in that. This led him to apply for the Master of Accounting (MAcc) program, which he will graduate from this spring.

The program is aimed at students looking to enhance their professional options and is offered for 10 weeks during the spring semester. Students can earn their CPA credentials before entering the workforce. After taking accounting classes and enjoying them, he contemplated enrolling in a fifth year because of his eligibility from track. He also planned on taking the CPA.

“I had this full extra year, and the more I thought about MAcc and taking the CPA and that whole process, the more it was a bonus for me that I had gotten that extra year from COVID,” Gibbens said. “Now, I have a job lined up at EY next year.”

The MAcc program and School of Business prepared Gibbens to enter the workforce. Hearing from professors who have had professional experiences and listening to guest speakers share their stories really impacted his mindset on how to solve issues he may run into one day.

“Another big thing that I think has been helpful is some classes will bring in guest speakers and people who have a lot of experience in exactly what I am going to be doing,” Gibbens said. “Getting to hear from them and professors who also have that experience has also been really helpful. I think that kind of helps keep you focused too on all the work that is going on, that this is applicable.”

When thinking of students who may want to apply to the MAcc program, Gibbens emphasizes how great it is. He notes the connections that can be made and how helpful it is for finding people in public accounting for future involvement. The program offers many opportunities outside of the academic and professional, and many events are put on for social opportunities.

Gibbens has taken many lessons out of his time at KU, some more memorable than others.

“Hard work is going to be rewarded,” Gibbens said. “Both on the track and here in the business school that has been proven true a lot of the time. On the track, it is easier to see, but the time put into homework and studying definitely translates into success in the classroom. Success in the classroom will translate into success professionally. The time and effort you put into something is definitely going to come back to reward you.”

Gibbens will be moving to Chicago for his job at EY, where he will work in the tax department. He’s never been to Chicago, and he is excited to start working on his own. He also knows he can continue his love of running without being on a team at a major university.

As he reflects on his time as a student, Gibbens would tell his younger self to slow down and enjoy everything more. He feels that he was too focused on the next step rather than being present and taking in the moment.

“That is something I am working on now, especially kind of having finished up school and finishing up my last year of eligibility for track,” Gibbens said. “Kind of not being so results-oriented and being happier with the opportunities to do things that I’ve had and enjoy the moment.”

By Grace Ludes

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KU School of Business

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