NASHVILLE – Lauren Winters and Alex Houser followed different paths to Trevecca, but they’ll travel a similar one after graduation.
Houser, of Mt. Juliet, is a graduate of Mt. Juliet High School.
The seniors graduated May 5 and will both start jobs with one of the big four accounting firms in October, Winters at Ernst & Young and Houser at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“She and I didn’t really like each other at the beginning,” Houser said. “But now we’re friends. It’s two completely different stories with the same end result. I’m really proud of her.”
While both were Nashville-area residents – Winters from Joelton and Houser from Mt. Juliet – they didn’t really know each other until they arrived on campus. Winters came to play soccer, a decision she attributes heavily to former Trevecca women’s soccer coach Mark Foster.
“I just wanted to play soccer in college,” Winters said. “Mark Foster had been a coach for me in high school, and he had just become the head coach here at the time I came here and toured in August. I loved the campus. The pieces all just fell into place. I knew as soon as I got here that I was supposed to be here.”
Houser, on the other hand, had his heart set on playing baseball in college, but an injury ended that dream. He came to Trevecca to interview for the McClurkan scholarship and ended up talking with Allen Jinnette, associate professor of accounting, about Trevecca’s accounting program.
“I knew a few alumni who go to church with me, and they spoke highly of the program,” Houser said. “I had a long list of schools, and the only one that wasn’t crossed off the list was Trevecca.”
Because of Trevecca’s small class sizes, the two got to know each other right away. With the same major and concentration, Houser and Winters were in many of the same classes. Both started applying for internships after their sophomore year, and their parallel journey continued.
“They expose you pretty early on to the Big Four at most universities,” Winters said. “The accounting firms come to you and talk about their companies and internship opportunities. Sophomore year I started applying for internships, and I didn’t get the Big Four internships. It’s funny, Alex was the one who got them. They usually only select one from Trevecca, and he was the one.”
While Houser began interning for PwC, Winters took another route that included various kinds of accounting internships, including tax internships with HCA and other companies.
“I enjoyed it, but I knew I was missing something,” Winters said. “I knew that I was passionate about accounting and that my calling is in that, and I was confident in that. I just didn’t know where I needed to land in the accounting industry. I knew that I wanted to bring a light to the industry. I really prayed about that a lot and felt like God was like, ‘You just have to be you, and I’ll place you where you need to be.’”
Houser also had a few decisions to make. He had the opportunity to graduate a year early and was considering law school, but he wasn’t quite sure. Trevecca alumni and siblings Brady Plummer, chief information officer for the Parallon division of HCA and Houser’s Sunday School teacher, and Kelly King, an assurance partner at PwC, played a pivotal role in helping him make the decision.
“They showed me different routes [in public accounting],” Houser said. “My sophomore year, I asked Mrs. King to meet me for lunch, trying just to decide if I should go to law school or give public accounting a try. That’s kind of what got the ball rolling on me working toward getting in [at PwC} and understanding the industry.”
As junior year slipped into senior year, both Winters and Houser seemed to have separate paths set out for them. Houser started a four-month-long internship with PwC following his junior year and had a job offer. Winters had started applying to graduate schools and took the GMAT, though she wasn’t pleased with her score or sure that graduate school was what she wanted to do.
“While I was applying, I had this awful feeling that I was done with school,” she said. “I could not imagine another year of busting it out in grad school. I was over learning about this stuff. I wanted to be doing it. But I didn’t know what opportunities were out there.”
Around that time, Winters met with a former guest speaker from one of her accounting classes the previous semester. He worked in auditing with Ernst & Young in Nashville and came from a similar background, having graduated from a small Christian college in Chattanooga.
That coffee meeting was a turning point of sorts for Winters.
“He had a lot of experience, but he was also a Christian, so I just wanted his perspective on future opportunities,” Winters said. “He does auditing [at Ernst & Young], and I was like, ‘Well, I’m never doing auditing.’ But he started talking about it, about teams and teamwork, and that feeling you get when you’re done with the audit and you all feel like you’ve contributed something. That’s been soccer for me, and I’ve loved that. I think I need something like that to continue on in my life.”
So, Winters submitted her resume to Ernst & Young, where she’d never had an internship, and got an interview.
“I just loved it,” she said. “I felt really comfortable. When I left, they offered me the job on the spot.”
Winters was then faced with a decision. She’d been accepted to graduate school at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and offered a job at one of the Big Four accounting firms.
“I had two amazing opportunities before me, and I have no idea how to select which one is right,” she said. “It came down to that gut feeling that I was over school, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I am filled with so much peace and able to leave college refreshed and at peace about it.
“Most students don’t often get opportunities to go to the Big Four,” she continued. “It was all word-of-mouth and resume for me and then the interview. That shows that God was working it all into place.”
Both Winters and Houser will start their careers in October. Each will spend the next few months studying for and passing each of the four sections of the CPA exam. Houser successfully completed the first section during spring break.
Despite a few twists and turns along the way, both Houser and Winters said they are thankful for their Trevecca experience. They credit the small class sizes and individual attention from professors and mentors with their success.
“It’s almost every single year that we’re putting people into public accounting and large firms,” Houser said. “I was at a dinner last Tuesday night and Vanderbilt was represented and Belmont and Lipscomb, all the mid-state colleges and universities. And they can’t say that same thing. Our program-two of us are going into Big Four accounting. It speaks to the quality of the program and the work of the professors.”
Trevecca Nazarene University is a Christian university in the heart of Nashville focused on preparing students for lives of leadership and service. Founded in 1901, Trevecca is committed to holistic education, encouraging students to grow intellectually, socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Located about a mile from thriving downtown Nashville, Trevecca provides a liberal arts education while guiding students to find God’s calling on their lives through traditional undergraduate programs, continuing and graduate studies and online offerings. With students from 44 states and 22 countries, Trevecca offers 15 associate degrees, 83 undergraduate majors, 20 master’s programs and two doctoral programs, as well as specialist and certificate programs.