One of the biggest decisions facing accounting majors revolves around choosing their career path with options like public, private, tax or audit. For Taylor Gehring, ’18 & ’19, she found her answer by taking advantage of the School of Accountancy split semester internship program.
“Everything I had been told as a student majoring in accounting centered around how you don’t know what public accounting is like until you work a busy season. The School of Accountancy understood this and saw it as an opportunity to help their students by creating this program,” the Waukee, Iowa native said.
Since 2015, more than 30 undergraduate and graduate accounting students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln participate in the split semester internship program each spring. One of just a few colleges to offer such a program, students gain hands-on experience working full-time at accounting firms during their busy season without delaying graduation. They take two five-week classes either before or after the internship portion of the semester.
For Gehring, she took Corporate Tax Accounting (ACCT 413) with Aaron Crabtree, associate dean of master's programs and executive development, KPMG Faculty Fellow in Professional Accounting and associate professor of accountancy, and Ethics and Accountant’s Professional Responsibility (ACCT 407) with Kathryn Maresh, assistant professor of practice in accountancy.
“These classes alternated on days we met for a block of hours. They challenged us, but both professors went out of their way to make sure we could keep up with the pace and really understand the material,” Gehring shared.
With the courses done and six credit hours earned, Gehring could earn six more credit hours through her internship to keep her status as a full-time student, a requirement for most students’ scholarships. Now she could focus her attention on her tax internship with Seim Johnson in Omaha.
“I had completed a summer internship with Seim Johnson during their audit busy season and received a job offer. I accepted it because I loved the people I worked with. I was nervous though because I didn’t know if I liked audit or tax more. I couldn’t answer that question because I never did taxes before,” she said.
She worked 45 to 60 hours a week preparing business and individual tax returns. She was treated like a first-year staff member.
“The experience allowed me to see both audit and tax in their busiest season at Seim Johnson. I learned I personally liked audit work more, and now I’ve been working there for two-and-a-half years,” the senior audit associate said. “My favorite part of the job is the people. I tell anyone pursuing a career in public accounting that audit and tax work is similar in nature everywhere, but the difference is the people.”
Going through such strenuous busy seasons, she discovered it was most important to work with people who took interest in her life and provided support when she needed it, even if it was to take a quick coffee break. She also found that type of support in Maresh, who kept in touch with Gehring and reviewed her internship reflection papers she submitted as part of the program.
“I got to know Professor Maresh very well in the first five weeks. As a professor who worked in public accounting, it was great to have her support and learn from her. She helped me through any homework assignment I needed assistance with – whether it was for her class or not,” Gehring said. “She’s an excellent professor, but she is an even better person.”
During her internship, Gehring applied for a teaching assistantship for the following year as part of the Master of Professional Accountancy program. Maresh selected Gehring as her teaching assistant for Individual Income Tax (ACCT 837).
“Taylor was enthusiastic, great with students, organized and always willing to help. She set a high bar for future teaching assistants,” said Maresh. “Her MPA class was a talented group of students who were good friends as well as classmates. I was fortunate to be invited to some of the group’s social events which helped me get to know Taylor and her fellow classmates even better. Even after graduation, we still stay in touch.”
With Gehring’s academic success and extensive involvement in college, Maresh said she was prepared to succeed after graduation. The internship experience allowed her to apply what she learned in the classroom, enhance her communication skills in a professional environment and affirm her future in audit.
“I hope every student takes advantage of this internship program and makes an effort to talk to faculty because you never know where it will lead,” Gehring said.