Twins turned WSU's real-world internship experience into careers
When Kathy Latta entered Wichita State University as a freshman, she already knew she was interested in working as an accountant for Koch Industries, Inc. Her mom had been an accountant. Koch is a strong company, Kathy said. And she has family members who have worked there, as well.
Kathy, who graduated in 2011, is now a staff accountant at Koch.
Her identical twin sister, Amy, wasn’t so sure what she was aiming for when she started attending Wichita State. After majoring in business administration for a short time, she decided to pursue a more specialized degree and joined Kathy in becoming an accounting major.
Amy is now a staff accountant at Lindburg Vogel Pierce Faris in Hutchinson.
The Lattas said they wouldn’t have gotten where they are without the valuable real-world experience WSU offered through student internships.
“I would not trade my internship for anything,” said Amy, who interned at Morrow & Co. LLC, a CPA firm close to downtown. “Accounting, like most other jobs, is different in the classroom than in the real world. The internship allowed me to see earlier how accounting works in real life. My understanding of financial accounting was solidified through the experience, and I learned so much more about taxes than if I had only taken classes.”
Kathy agreed that working in the industry while taking classes is valuable in helping determine a student’s career path and improve professional development.
“The real-world experiences helped me understand concepts in my classes more fully and also helped me apply knowledge to the workplace as well,” she said. “I enjoyed being able to relate the subjects in class to what I was doing at work.”
‘A good foundation’
Kathy and Amy, whose parents also graduated from Wichita State, are from Wichita and attended Berean Academy in Elbing, Kan. They wanted to stay close to home and were interested in the W. Frank Barton School of Business at WSU.
They each enjoyed their general accounting classes, but preferred different upper division classes, with Amy preferring financial accounting and Kathy cost accounting and tax.
Kathy was an intern at Koch in summer 2010 and had a position there through WSU’s Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program during fall 2010 and spring 2011.
“Applied accounting is somewhat different than what I learned in the classroom,” she said. “The internship and co-op positions gave me a good foundation of understanding accounting. These positions also provided an opportunity to network with other employees and learn about Koch’s company culture.”
Making classes easier
Amy Latta actually wanted to be a teacher while growing up. As a high school junior, she was a 2nd grade teacher’s aide. She loved the kids, but decided that teaching was not her best career path.
When she enrolled at WSU, she declared a major in business administration. She eventually switched to accounting so she could get a more specialized degree.
“Once I took my first accounting class, I loved it and didn’t want to switch again,” Amy said.
She took an internship at Morrow & Co. for 2 1/2 years. She worked part-time for the firm doing taxes, accounting services and some audit work. She appreciates that Morrow & Co. allowed her to continue taking classes rather than take a semester off to work full-time at the firm.
“The experience I received was invaluable,” Amy said. “It helped me understand my classes better and especially made my tax classes easier.”
Along with learning on-the-job skills, Amy was able to further develop her
interpersonal skills and learn how to better relate to other people in a professional environment.
Confirming a career path
Amy and Kathy said the atmosphere at the Barton School of Business also helped them succeed. The professors were approachable and willing to help, said Amy.
“I liked the Barton School of Business; it is big enough to provide multiple opportunities, but small enough that you can get to know the professors and other students without feeling lost in a crowd,” she said.
Along with classes and work, the sisters were involved in extracurricular activities, including Beta Alpha Psi, Christian Challenge, the Navigators Campus Ministry and Shocker basketball games. Those activities were important to their college experience, as well, Kathy said, adding that she would strongly encourage students to get whatever real-world work experience they can before graduation.
“Internships can be very helpful in confirming the choice of a career path as well as determining if a particular company’s culture is a good fit,” she said. “I am grateful for my time at Wichita State.”