Throughout the CSU system, every day brings with it the opportunity to connect with others. Universities are unique locations where many students find themselves not only making a commitment to education, but also embarking on their respective paths in life. On university campuses, students begin to forge connections and meet people that impact their lives, alignments that are often fortuitous.
This was the case for Kesi Brathwaite, a CCSU alumna student who majored in Accounting. Kesi first met Professor Monique Durant during her sophomore year, when she realized she enjoyed working with numbers, a discovery that led her to change her major from Management to Accounting. Kesi’s advisor put her in touch with Professor Durant, and together they immediately started developing a plan to help Kesi succeed. As a first-generation college student, Kesi wasn’t sure of the opportunities available to her in Accounting. But, thanks to one-on-one mentoring from Professor Durant, opportunities soon presented themselves.
In their first discussion, Professor Durant suggested that Kesi attend an upcoming Accounting Fair, an opportunity held on the CCSU campus exclusively for Finance and Accounting majors to speak with companies in their industries about the possibilities and future job prospects in the field. The event enables students to present themselves formally on campus to companies that they are interested in for internships or future employment.
In Kesi’s case, Professor Durant went a step further and offered to introduce Kesi to a recruiter from Deloitte, a Big Four accounting firm and one of the professor’s previous employers. With that in mind, the two began working together to prepare for the meeting. “She helped me update my résumé, run through questions, write my cover letter — the whole package; she sat with me and went through it,” Kesi recalled. Professor Durant also provided relevant examples throughout the process, which better enabled Kesi to express herself professionally in a formal interview setting. “When I was in my interview with the recruiter, I was able to articulate myself well and give them what they needed in the format that they needed,” she said.
Kesi believes her favorable first impression on the recruiter was a direct result of Professor Durant’s coaching. After her initial introduction to the recruiter, Kesi secured an on-campus interview, which led to preparation with Professor Durant on two additional fronts: for an in-person interview, and again for a phone interview. Kesi remembered being very nervous about expressing herself over the phone, but was no stranger to the process thanks to her practice with her mentor. After the phone interview, she was selected to interview in-person for a highly sought-after Deloitte conference held in Texas each year. Kesi interviewed at Deloitte Headquarters with four partners, one of whom found her particularly promising. Only a few days later, that partner offered Kesi an internship with the company. Though surprised by the development, which she accepted without hesitation.
Kesi worked for two consecutive summers at Deloitte in Stamford, Connecticut as a part of its Discovery Rotational Intern Program. The program is held during the summer and allows interns to gain practical experience in tax and audit procedures. “In both years I was the only CCSU student there thanks to Professor Durant so I felt very fortunate,” she recalled. Kesi’s practical internship at a Big Four accounting firm was a major milestone in her career path. “It was actually an eye opener as to the opportunities that were available – it really helped me solidify my interest in Accounting,” Kesi remembered.
Kesi also attributes the building of her wide professional network to her internship experiences at Deloitte. “I got to work on extending my network while there. I trained in Philadelphia, and I have colleagues that are from all over: Florida, New York, California, South Carolina. But I’ve built this network that I didn’t think I could have, that I never thought I could have when I initially began pursuing Accounting.”
Her professional network has played a large role in her success, which all began with her work at CCSU. Even as Kesi moved from Deloitte into an internship at another firm, she recognized the truth in a former colleague’s statement: “Business happens at the dinner table.” When asked how difficult this path would’ve been for Kesi without her mentor, she replied: “You have to have people, sponsors, pushing for you, and it’s great to be knowledgeable; you can be awesome, but if no one knows about you, it’s pointless. If I hadn’t spoken to Professor Durant, I don’t think I would’ve been able to be an intern at Deloitte because it’s very difficult to get in to.”
Her professor’s connections and guidance enabled Kesi to expand her career goals and open her mind to new possibilities. Professor Durant’s understanding of both the accounting industry and academia helped Kesi make the right choices to begin her career. Of Professor Durant, Kesi remarked, “She became a mentor to me after our first conversation. Because she’s incredible, she has her J.D. and everything. I remember thinking ‘Wow, I want to be just like you – even half of you would be great.’”
And Kesi is indeed following in her mentor’s footsteps. She is currently in the Master’s of Science in Accounting program at CCSU and is studying for her upcoming CPA exam while working full-time as an Audit Associate at the prestigious Whittlesey & Hadley firm in Hartford, Connecticut. To this day, Kesi maintains close contact with Professor Durant, whose effect on her is evident: “She’s always held high standards for her students, but she also gives us a guide as to how to hold ourselves to a high standard and accomplish the things we need to accomplish.”