ON THE JOB
When students set out to find a co-op or internship opportunity, sometimes the circumstances don’t add up—which can be discouraging to the student and leave a gap in their educational track.
Continuing lecturer for the IPFW Department of Accounting and Finance Sue Minke does what she can—which is a lot—to help students build the bridge to the opportunities they seek through her classroom experience and affiliation with IPFW’s Office of Academic Internships, Cooperative Education, and Service Learning (OACS).
“We work really hard to prepare our students,” Minke says. “I think that’s one of the great things our department has to offer—we have a small staff, but we have a strong connection to our students. We see our students frequently during office hours and we’re all there trying to encourage them to look for opportunities. We have a very working-based student population who are financing their own education—these opportunities to get that work and those dollars in a field that relates to what they’re doing is really helpful to them.”
After Minke graduated from college, she started out on the corporate side of her field—though teaching had always been in the back of her mind. After exploring roles in several major corporations, she started teaching part-time in a few different locations. This transition ultimately led her to Fort Wayne and then to a full-time position at IPFW.
“I’ve been here for about 15 years,” Minke says. “Every class I teach every day is different, even if it’s the same subject matter across semesters. The students have changed; the technology has changed… The world has changed. My own work is always changing because of that. It’s hard to believe it when people ask me how I teach the same class all the time because it’s never the same. Personally, my goals are always to look at those new things and to get those continuing education credits.”
Minke is also responsible for assisting accounting and finance majors in finding co-op jobs and internships—in just this past spring, 27 of her students were able to get co-op positions.
“We have a fabulous student body,” she says. “IPFW is a gem in this part of the state, and I am amazed all the time at how many people need to know more about it. I’m continually trying to get them to think ahead of where they are today and to be prepared—accounting was once the ‘bean counter’ role and that’s not the way it is anymore. We have fantastic students—they come from all kinds of backgrounds, all kinds of experiences, all kinds of ages. They work at different jobs. They bring so much to each class, but they’re here to find a path that works for them. They’re different every time and that’s what makes teaching so fun.”
Minke mentions that mentoring students toward their future careers is one of the best parts of the job—her corporate experience allows her to see opportunities for her students that aren’t normally taught in the classroom.
“At the beginning of every semester, I ask them for information about themselves to know what they’re working on in their lives, but I also ask them to write down what their dream is and what are they going to do about getting to that dream,” she says. “We talk about those halfway through the semester—it’s like checking to see where we are on that dream and how what they’re doing is going to connect them to where they really want to go.”
She’s often faced with students in other business majors who don’t want anything to do with accounting—in those cases, she tries to work with them and see how decisions get made in their field or personal life to see if she can approach the class material through their lens.
“I feel like my job is to dispel the myths of accounting,” Minke says. “People have this perception that accounting is dry and always the same and not useful, but many of my students aren’t even accounting majors. Accounting is relevant to everything a businessperson is going to do. I try to make it relevant, fun, and an exploration of the different sides of accounting that people just don’t think about.”
Minke’s approach includes looking at real-world companies and financial statements to view things from a decision-making standpoint. She asks her students how they would handle the transaction and what impact it will have on the financial statement in order to make the material connect for them.
“Accounting itself has been the same for hundreds of years, but how we communicate that information, how we prepare that information changes all the time,” she says. “The university is very aware of the new things that students need to have in order to stay current in the accounting and finance field. For many years, I think people have thought the role of accounting was to simply count the items. It’s so much more than that now—I think that surprises my students.”
The Office of Academic Internships, Cooperative Education, and Service Learning (OACS) serves the faculty, students, and staff with scholarly and creative endeavors. OACS scouts out students with certain GPA levels and skills that employers are looking for—faculty members like Minke who work with OACS then have the students who qualify go to the office to register and look for open positions.
“My role in this—as the office handles all the logistics of the paperwork and so forth—is to be faculty advisor for the students,” she says. “I encourage students to get involved in the program and continue to encourage them while they’re waiting for that phone call for an interview. I visit the students once a semester during their employment time and that’s the best part of the whole experience for me because they get to show me things they’re working on.”
A lot of positive feedback rolls back in about the co-op and internship opportunities OACS is able to dole out. The students go to work every day like normal employees and employers have reported that they often forget the students are interns—that it feels more like they’re part of the team.
“It’s fun to watch them realize there are all these things that we can’t teach them in a classroom that they can learn with an employer,” Minke says. “They show me what they’re doing and I get to ask questions—they bring up spreadsheets and projects they’re working on, which often relate to my classes. Sometimes, I can then take some of the things they’re working on and bring those into my classroom so we can talk as a class about those projects and I can say, ‘See? I didn’t make any of this up. This is real stuff,’ which just makes it real for a lot of students.”
Minke keeps in contact with the employers that come back to continue their participation in OACS’ co-op and internship programs, and often tries to get them in to speak to her classes. She’s working on some projects with a few employers to enable some of the projects she gives her students in class to be based on real-world assignments.
“We’ll change the names and numbers, but it’s a real assignment,” she says. “That connection is just really strong and I think it’s good for the students, good for the employers, and good for the university.”
A high percentage of students who fill co-op or internship positions are then hired into the firm they work in—Minke ventures to guess in the ballpark of 70% or even higher.
“We have really seen an increase in demand in the last several years,” she says. “It’s always been a strong program for us. A few years ago when the economy wasn’t as strong, we had a decrease in the number of students working, but that was just one little decrease—it’s growing every semester and I think the reputation is strong. Fort Wayne is a small/big financial community, and the accounting firms and the other employers who know each other share the information about our program and its strength. We have a lot of connections.”
Department of Accounting and Finance
A program with as much variety as the industries it applies to? Money talks. Delve into the fast-paced world of accounting, a major that will open doors to just about any industry that interests you. Take advantage of what Career Services has to offer specifically to accounting students, get involved in a co-op program to practice your skills, or join the Accounting or Finance Societies to prepare for professional roles in the business world. We graduate financial managers, securities dealers, bankers, and more. Our program includes accounting, bank management, finance, business studies, and Post-Baccalaureate (PBA). Learn more.