Tucked away in the Student Center on the Upper Iowa University residential campus in Fayette, Iowa, is the UIU Career Development office. It is not just for campus students, however. “We are here to assist all UIU students in all learning experiences to be successful in their job search and to give them a leg up on other college grads seeking these same positions,” said Darren Noble, director.
A UIU alumna with a combined learning experience of online and center education, Kristen Ferwerda ‘12 credits Career Development as being the catalyst to her career.
“A few months before graduation, I contacted UIU Career Development,” she said. “I truly believe that phone call is one of the main reasons that I have the job I have today. One of the best pieces of advice they gave me was to create a LinkedIn profile.
“Literally, I created my profile, and less than a week later I saw the job posting for a compliance specialist at Wipfli. I applied right away, and the rest, as they say, is history! I accepted my position with Wipfli a little less than a month before graduation. My first day was exactly two weeks after my final day of classes.”
As a compliance specialist at Wipfli LLP, Ferwerda’s primary job is to work with financial institution compliance engagements. “We help our clients to be better prepared for their compliance exams that they receive from regulators. We also help them navigate through the confusing world of banking regulations,” she said. “Some of the responsibilities I have in this position are collecting and analyzing data, communicating results of the engagement to the client, and formulating appropriate recommendations for the client. I also produce written reports and documentation for each of the engagements that I am responsible for. The best part of my job is that I get to help people on a regular basis.”
Ferwerda is no stranger to the financial industry. In 2008, she lost her job after a combined 13 years in the industry when the bank she was working at was shut down by the FDIC/OCC. At that time, a lot of people in the country were out of work. “There were a lot of references made about careers in ‘declining industries,’ and I wanted a degree in an industry that could be considered somewhat stable,” she said. “I figured that as long as there is business, there will be a need for accounting. I’ve always like numbers, and I have a pretty analytical mind. So, I quickly made the decision that accounting would be a major that made sense for me. There are also a lot of opportunities for accounting majors, and it is a diverse degree. I liked that a degree in accounting does not limit you to just one industry.”
To earn her degree, Ferwerda took the majority of her classes through Upper Iowa University’s Online Program, and her senior project class through Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, Wis., because it offered the UIU senior project class and it provided a classroom environment that she wanted for her final course.
Wipfli said Ferwerda stood out among all other candidates for the compliance specialist position because of her previous bank experience and her Upper Iowa University accounting degree. “They recognized the drive, discipline and determination that it takes to earn a college degree,” Ferwerda said. “Wipfli looks for those qualities in their employees.”