Student Member Spotlight: Karen Villatoro

MSCPA Student Member and Suffolk Class of 2014


1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where you grew up? Attended school?

Hello! My name is Karen Villatoro and I am originally from Massachusetts. I grew up in Chelsea, MA, which is about a 15-20 minute drive outside of Boston. I graduated in 2011 from Chelsea High School. After graduation I wanted to stay close by to home and decided to attend Suffolk University in Boston. My parents are originally from Guatemala and since they were not able to receive a higher education they always encouraged me to continue with my education. I am a part of the first American generation in my family and the oldest out of five children. I was the first person to graduate from high school and this upcoming December of 2014 (a semester earlier than anticipated graduation date) I will become the first person in my family to graduate from college. I will be graduating with a Bachelor’s degree of Science with a major in Accounting and a minor in Information Systems. In my last semester of undergrad I am currently taking 6 courses with a total of 18 credits, working about 30 hours a week (at my internship and as a teaching assistant at school), and I am also on the E-board of Beta Alpha Psi as the Strategic Planning Chair. I work hard every day in order to succeed and make my family proud. I also want to be a great role model in which my younger siblings can look up to.

2. What does it mean to you to be the first person in your family to graduate high school and college?

It is definitely an honor to become the first person in my family to graduate from high school and college. I was able to break the ice and become an example for my younger siblings. I hope that they are able to follow my footsteps and strive for success. My parents had always told me when I was younger that I had to receive as much education as possible in order to strive for success.  I then started to have that mindset of pursuing my education and one day attending college. It now feels like a dream come true.

3. Has this given you a unique perspective or experience in your studies?

It was very difficult at first because my parents did not have any experience in applying for colleges. During high school I did a lot of research on the steps needed to apply for college. I used the resources that were provided in school by spending a lot of time in the guidance office and applying for every scholarship that was available. I also continued to do a lot of research during college to apply for internships. I spent a lot of time in the Career Development Center and gained experience on resume building, cover letters, and job interview skills. I had to explore on my own but I am very fortunate to have these resources available at school. I also appreciate those who have helped and supported me throughout my college years.

4. Can you speak on your experience being an MSCPA Scholarship recipient?

It was a great experience being an MSCPA Scholarship Recipient. I did not think I would win the scholarship but I was fortunate to have won. I am very grateful for getting the opportunity to receive those funds. I was able to pay off the remainder of the private loan that I had for the Spring 2014 semester and also purchase some of my books for the Fall 2014 semester. I was able to network and socialize with many other professionals at the award ceremony (the MSCPA Annual Meeting & Recognition Reception). I would like to thank the MSCPA and CliftonLarsonAllen LLP for making this opportunity possible. After winning the scholarship I started learning more about the MSCPA and started attending some of the events. I have had a great experience as an MSCPA student member.

5. What influenced you to study accounting?

After graduating high school I knew that I wanted to study something in the business field but I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. I decided to choose accounting because my favorite subject was Math. I was always at an advanced level in math throughout grade school and high school. When I took my first accounting course I automatically fell in love with the subject and I knew that I had made the right choice. I enjoyed balancing the accounts and learning about the different financial statements.

6. What has been your experience with the accounting program at your school?

I have had a great experience at Suffolk University. I have enjoyed working with professional experts in the accounting field. I learned many new things with the professors I have met. They all have different experiences in accounting, which is nice to learn about when deciding which direction to take in the accounting world. Some of the professors I have met also attended Suffolk so they have once been in my position. Since Suffolk University is in the heart of Boston, there are many job opportunities and extracurricular activities available. Everyone is very supportive and wants to see you succeed.

7. Is there a particular aspect of accounting you like the best & why?

I really enjoy how there are different paths available in the accounting field. You can choose auditing, taxation, consulting, and much more. There isn’t just one direction to take in accounting, if you don’t enjoy one branch of it then there is a chance to switch into another. It all depends on what your interest is. I myself am still trying to figure out which path to take but I would love to learn a little bit of everything.

8. Have you participated in any internships, and if so, how many and how were they?

I am currently interning for a public health consulting company named John Snow Inc. I have been working there for a little over a year now. I manage the cash receipts, review expense reports, and enter journal entries into the accounting system. It has definitely been a great experience there. I love the culture and how friendly everyone is. I felt very welcomed from the start.  

9. What advice would you give to those consider studying accounting?

First of all accounting is definitely a safe career to enter in. Accountants are always needed and that is the main reason why accounting is awesome! But from all jokes aside…I would say that even though everyone thinks that accounting is all about numbers, well it’s really not. Yes, you do need to know how to balance your accounts but that’s just simple addition and subtraction. As I am still learning myself, accounting is a lifelong learning experience. It involves communication skills, critical thinking skills, great writing and presentation skills. These are just a few to name. The reason why it’s not all about math is because you need to learn how to communicate with others and not just trust what anyone says. You always need to think outside of the box and ask many questions. There will be times when you will have to present something to your clients or maybe even send an email or a memo to your boss. It needs to be done in a professional way. If you’re auditing a company, you can’t just accept the answers they give you. Take that extra mile and figure out why the amount of inventory the client said they had doesn’t match the inventory you counted. Has there been fraud involved or is there something they are hiding? These are a few examples in which these skills may be used.

10. What are your future goals and career plans?

Upon graduation, I plan on studying for the CPA exam and hopefully pass all 4 parts before starting grad school. I would like to enroll in the 4+1 program at Suffolk University. This program allows recent Suffolk graduates to complete a Master’s of Science in Accounting or Taxation within 1 year. I plan to start this program in the Fall of 2015.

11. Outside of accounting what could we find you up to?

This is a very tough question to answer. I am always extremely busy and I usually don’t have much time to enjoy myself. The few times I do have available I like to go out and catch up with friends, possibly a movie or dinner. I enjoy meeting new people and volunteering. It might sound boring but I guess there are some things you might have to give up in order to strive for success.

12. What are your favorite places to volunteer or causes?

I usually enjoy supporting the walks for different causes. Some examples include, the Walk for Breast Cancer, ALS Walk, Walk for Hunger, etc. Not only am I supporting these causes but it is also a great exercise.

During my first 3 years at Suffolk University, I was a Corps-Member for Jumpstart. Jumpstart is a nonprofit organization that supports working toward the day every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed. Many children from low-income communities start kindergarten at a 60% level behind their peers and continue to stay behind. This results in an increase of high school dropouts, higher criminal rates, and not being able to develop in a higher workforce. This organization tries to decrease this gap by focusing on early education. I was able to work in low-income communities, with children from the ages 3-5, in order to help develop their language and literacy skills. Not only did I enjoy volunteering because I love children, but I was also able to put myself in their shoes. I highly support Jumpstart because I myself grew up in a low-income community.

13. What tips would you have to those that are as busy as you to stay organized?

I would suggest to plan accordingly. I usually use a planner to write down all of my assignments and any upcoming deadlines. It is very helpful because you are able to see which items you might need to currently focus on more than others. It does get hectic and difficult to juggle everything but I would suggest to just hang in there. Remember, “Just like the rainbow after the rain, a good thing will always happen after you experience pain.”

If you would like to be featured in an upcoming Student Member Spotlight let us know!



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