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Millsaps College Senior Interns with a Big Four Accounting Firm

by Web on March 29, 2017

A senior from Baton Rouge, La., Leslie Decoteau recently put into practice what she learned in the classroom.

Decoteau completed a nine-week internship in New Orleans with EY (formerly Ernst & Young), one of the Big Four accounting firms.

“After just my first week, it was clear to me that I was gaining valuable knowledge and it was also clear that accounting is a field where I will never cease learning, improving, and gaining new skills,” she said.

During the internship, Decoteau handled the work of a first-year accountant.

“That entailed being assigned to particular clients across varying industries—in my time I was able to work for a client in metals and mining, two oil and gas clients, and one insurance group,” she said. “On the weeks I was assigned to a client, I went out to the client’s office—I’ve been in downtown New Orleans, Covington, and Houston—and met with my auditing team which usually consisted of a staff I, staff II, senior I, managing senior, manager, senior manager, and partner.

“The work I did entailed setting up the documents necessary to perform an audit of the client’s accounts, to provide reasonable assurance to their investors that the company’s financials are relevant, reliable, and timely.”

Decoteau began the process to attain an internship in the spring of 2016. Suzi Nyberg, career specialist for the Else School of Management at Millsaps College, arranged interviews on campus for EY and Decoteau later visited New Orleans for a follow-up interview.

A member of Beta Gamma Sigma business honorary and Beta Alpha Psi accounting honorary, for which she serves as the public relations chair, Decoteau considers a trip to Washington, D.C., as among her favorite experiences at Millsaps College.

With fellow accounting and economics students and professors, Decoteau visited institutions such as the Federal Reserve Board, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, and the Government Accounting Office, each of which they had studied in class.

Decoteau names Dr. Kim Burke, dean of the Else School of Management and professor of accounting; Dr. Blakely Fox Fender, professor of economics and J. Armistead Brown Chair of Business Administration, and Dr. Jesse Beeler, professor of accounting and Hyman F. McCarty Jr. Chair of Business Administration, as among her favorite professors.

“Dr. Fender’s pizza and beer analogies made economics so much better,” she said, “and Dr. Beeler’s homegrown parables, love for travel and adventure, and signature motto, ‘work hard, make money, have fun,’ are enough to brighten any day. His work hard, play hard philosophy, coupled with his kind-hearted, genuine investment in our success, is sometimes just what I need to make it through a hard week.”

Decoteau said she was intimidated at the thought of taking a class taught by Burke, but she discovered Burke is a patient teacher. “Dean Burke sets high expectations and really drives her students to put forth their very best,” she said.

A member of Chi Omega who served two terms as its treasurer and has been a presidential ambassador in the Office of Admissions, Decoteau said her experience at Millsaps has been about more than just academics.

“I have met the most incredible people during my time at Millsaps—be it peers, professors, members of the Jackson community at large—and I could have never imagined that that would be the most rewarding take away from my time at college,” she said.

She chose to attend Millsaps partly because of encouragement from her uncle, the late Jimmy Carter of Ridgeland, who earned an MBA in 1997 from Millsaps.

“He received one of his many degrees from Millsaps, and he had nothing but exceptional things to say about the education that he and his son received here,” she said. “He had a strong passion for the pursuit of education and continually inspired me to expand my horizons. He recently passed away and will not be able to make it to my graduation, but I hope to honor his memory following in his footsteps as a student of accounting and working diligently to continue furthering my education.”

Wellspring, a living and learning community for first-year students at Millsaps, also provided a transformative experience, Decoteau said.

“I worked with Operation Shoestring at Rowan Middle School in Midtown,” she said. “The experience involved writing weekly journal submissions, attending bi-weekly discussions, and weekly visits to Rowan. I was lucky to find a lasting friendship in the program coordinator, Tonja Murphy.”

For Decoteau, one of the most challenging aspects about being at Millsaps was letting go of the person she thought she was when she arrived.

“College provides us all the chance to learn so much more than what is taught in the classroom,” she said. “It provides us a place to become true individuals for the first time. Millsaps gave me a freedom I didn’t even know I needed and it resulted in a lot of personal growth, which was certainly challenging at times. Looking forward, I feel that this ‘challenge’ has given me the confidence in myself that I need to have a successful and rewarding future.”

Decoteau plans to earn a master of accountancy degree at Millsaps and to continue her part-time work at Fresh Ink, a store in Banner Hall in Jackson that specializes in artisan paper products.

“Growing up, my mom always put such an emphasis on writing thank-you notes, and since beginning at Fresh Ink in the fall of 2014 I have cultivated such an appreciation for the handwritten letter,” she said. “There is nothing I enjoy more than taking the time to sit down and write words of thanks, love, or encouragement to others. I feel it really shows someone that you care. It has been so fun seeing the store grow and change during my time there and it has been so rewarding to become a part of such a great and creative team.”