Downtown Augusta is a special place for Summer Bell (BBA in Accounting, ’06; MBA, ’08), a partner with Rhoden CPA Firm. It is where she works, went to school, and where her family owned businesses. Being an Augusta native made her choice of Augusta University an easy one.
“I didn’t want to go away for school. I went to a small private school, Curtis Baptist, and I graduated with about 23 people in my entire class,” she said. “I could not even imagine going to a school the size of the University of Georgia or South Carolina.”
There’s a lot to be said for staying home and saving money, she explained.
“I’m really glad I stayed home and went to Augusta University because it gave me the opportunity to complete an internship at [a] local firm.”
That local firm was SME CPAs. “I did a four-year internship with them through college, and it was wonderful to be able to take accounting classes at [Augusta State University] and then go to work later in the afternoon.”
Bell started her Master of Business Administration (MBA) right after obtaining her accounting undergraduate degree. “I didn’t wait because once you get out of the habit of studying, it is really hard to go back,” she explained.
She said she picked an MBA over getting a master of accounting because she felt it prepared her better for an accounting role, giving her an education in all aspects of business.
In all, she worked for SME for more than 10 years before joining Rhoden, attributing the Hull College MBA in assisting her in securing her role of partner at the firm. “I feel like the MBA was really good to prepare me for next-level management.”
Bell joined Rhoden, located in downtown Augusta, in 2013 and became a partner in 2021.
She describes Rhoden as a smaller “boutique-sized” firm that serves small, medium, and large-sized businesses. She has clients in Florida, Colorado, California, and Virginia — and a few as far away as Saudi Arabia and Dubai. When asked about the diversity of clients Rhoden serves, Summer said, “[Many] times [business] comes from referrals … so, somebody does business with us, they’re pleased with our services, and they tell a friend or family member of theirs.”
Partners have more administrative and management duties, but they don’t escape the accounting. “I do a lot of tax returns and working on tax planning. I even still do some payroll returns. I still do some lower-level work because I don’t want to lose that knowledge.”
Bell’s volunteer work includes 10 years with the Community Foundation for the CSRA, overseeing their grant program. She is an active member of the Symphony Guild of Augusta and has served as treasurer for Child Enrichment Inc., the Greater Augusta Arts Council, the Augusta Ballet, and for the Cotillion Debutante Ball. She is the current chair on the Newcomer/Greeters Committee at St. Paul’s Church.
“I’m Aunt Summer to a lot of kids, and I love being active in my nieces’ and nephews’ lives,” she said. In addition to approximately 30 nieces and nephews, she and her husband have three cats.
Bell lists camping and yoga as her primary hobbies. “We love to go camping. We still do tent camping, and we love to go hiking. I love waterfalls, and we love to be outside,” she said.