March 20, 2018

Kish College student Briana Williams kicked off 2018 in Chicago, though not at a New Year’s celebration. She spent the first week of January at the prestigious and selective Mary T. Washington Wylie Internship Preparation Program offered by the Illinois CPA (Certified Public Accountants) Society. A year ago, she never dreamed she would have been selected to participate in such an empowering three-day program.

Briana graduated from DeKalb High School in 2016 and entered Northern Illinois University that fall, prepared to go through the pre-business program there and eventually earn a degree in Business Administration. But there were issues at home that became increasingly tumultuous over her first year and the large university started to feel overwhelming. “I just felt lost in the picture,” she explained. “I wanted and needed classes with more one-on-one type of atmosphere.” She decided to enroll at Kish College to get her bearings.

That is how she met Everett Westmeyer, Assistant Professor of Accounting at Kish who had been named the 2017 Outstanding Educator by the Illinois CPA Society. She enrolled in her first accounting class and began the semester sitting in the back of the room, quiet and reserved. Then she took the first exam and was a single point away from a perfect 100%.  Westmeyer pulled her aside and suggested accounting as a career path instead.

“He called it “coming over to the dark side” of business,” Briana laughed. “Being in Everett’s class piqued my interest in accounting, but to have someone like him who has a lot of experience in the field tell me he saw something in me, it made me rethink my career goals.” Unlike what most people think, though accounting may involve numbers, it is actually much more. “I learned to look for the story behind the numbers,” she explained. “When you learn to do that, it is a fascinating field.”

When the application period for the Mary T. Washington Wylie Internship Preparation Program opened, Devin Payne from the Illinois CPA Society presented to the class. Briana was interested, but her GPA was one-tenth of a point below the requirement. Westmeyer encouraged her to apply anyway and he wrote a recommendation letter for her. She earned one of the 25 spots in the program.

The Mary T. Washington Wylie Internship Preparation Program offers accounting students from under-represented populations an opportunity to fine tune their internship preparation skills including presentation, attire, and resume/cover letter protocols. The program included mock interviews with accounting firm representatives with constructive feedback afterwards.  A large part of the experience was the opportunity to network with representatives from renowned national and international firms.

For Briana, the turning point in affirming her career choice was the keynote address by Kimberly Ellison-Taylor from Oracle America and the Chair of the American Institute of CPAs.  “She was just inspiring,” said Briana. “She started at the bottom and worked her way up. I didn’t realize how underrepresented I was until her speech. It was so empowering.” The entire program only got better from that stirring beginning.

“I came back from the program significantly changed,” Briana explained. “I was socially reserved at the start but my confidence sky-rocketed. I always felt slightly below everyone but now I realize that I am more than enough as I am.” Her future goal? It is now bright and clear: Briana Williams plans to transfer to NIU in Fall 2018 and pass her CPA exam in 2021.


August 18, 2017

When Byron Downen graduated from Hiawatha High School in 2013, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to major in or follow as a career. He enrolled at Kishwaukee College.  “Kish is the perfect place for somebody who's either just starting off, someone who's unsure what they want to do, or someone who wants to save money,” he explained. “It's affordable, class sizes are small which gives faculty the chance to personally support you, and there's a little bit of everything for those wanting to experiment.” It worked out perfectly for Byron. One of the classes he experimented with was accounting with instructor Everett Westmeyer. Today, Byron is finishing up his Master’s degree in Accounting at Northern Illinois University.

“I decided to become an accountant during the first semester of my sophomore year at Kish,” he said.  “I came to Everett when I was unsure of a major but I started to like accounting. He spent a lot of time with me to help me reach my best decision.”

Everett Westmeyer, who was recently named a recipient of the Illinois CPA Society’s 2017 Outstanding Educator Award, is known as an educator who challenges his students to think outside the box. Byron noted, “He teaches by asking students questions as opposed to simply lecturing and he pushes all of his students to see the big picture. It is a refreshing change of pace, as opposed to working problem by problem. I enjoyed it immediately.”

It also prepared Byron for the upper-division accounting coursework at NIU. “Everett's teaching style is most similar to the styles used by NIU professors in the upper level program, hands down,” he said. He added that Kish overall had given him the foundation he needed to build on to be successful when he transferred to the university.

What attracted him to accounting? “I enjoy the variety of things I can do with an accounting education. I can do audit; I can do tax; I can do corporate accounting. I can even become an FBI special agent if I wanted, as a forensic accountant. I also enjoy working with numbers and using the computer. Plus, the accounting process truly helps me see the entirety of a business, so I know why I'm doing what I do,” he explained. “Numbers are way more interesting with dollar signs in front of them!”

Since transferring to NIU, Byron landed an internship with the accounting firm Grant Thornton in Chicago in Spring 2017, handling the procedures and work-papers related to the financial audit of a company. He has a job lined up with Grant Thornton in their Tampa, Florida office, when he completes his Master’s degree.

Byron is still in contact with Everett Westmeyer. “Everett is still a huge mentor to me,” he said. “Becoming an accountant was a great decision for me. I continue to bounce ideas off of Everett when it comes to school, work, or even life. Everett is the reason I'm an accounting major today.”

For more information on Accounting and Business programs at Kishwaukee College, contact Kathy Mershon in the Math/Science/Business Division at 815-825-9307 or at