Alumni Success: Catherine Raker, MST

“Dreams don’t have an expiration date.” That is the personal motto of Catherine Raker, MST ’19.

From Massachusetts to Michigan

Raker’s path to Walsh began 30 years ago, more than 700 miles away in Massachusetts. After earning her Bachelor of Science in Accounting, she started working in public accounting for an international firm. A career move into private industry led to frequent business travel, which led to a new opportunity in Michigan. Raker took a risk, accepted the position, and moved to Michigan. She married and started back to school to pursue a master’s degree in business.

Raker’s busy life got busier when her first child was born a month early. She made the difficult decision to pause her education to devote her energy to work and raising her family. When her youngest child left for college, Raker knew it was time to get back to school. She decided to pursue a Master of Science in Taxation (MST) at Walsh. “Little did I know how that decision would alter my life,” she said.

Flexibility and Convenience

Raker chose Walsh for its reputation, but also for flexibility and convenience. “The way Walsh structures its semesters is a huge benefit for students who want to finish their program quickly,” she said. Walsh’s year-round registration and four 11-week semesters allow students to keep momentum going all year, plan their program in advance, and potentially finish sooner. 

In fact, Raker completed her master’s program in under two years. She also appreciated the efficient admissions process. “For students who have made up their minds that they want to continue their studies, speedy and simple entrance processes are key,” she said.

Personal Attention and Real-World Experience

Once her classes began, Raker was impressed by the level of professional experience her faculty possessed and their willingness to share their knowledge with students. “All of the professors in my program went beyond expectations,” she said. “I would often stay after class to ask questions about academic and work situations, and they never minded staying longer than required. They clearly love teaching.”

Raker also found that what she was learning in her classes could be directly applied to situations she was experiencing at work during the day. “It was fulfilling to be able to apply what I had learned in class right away in my career.”

A Network of Support

During her time at Walsh, Raker took advantage of the many student services and resources available to her. She met with her academic advisor regularly, who helped her plan her program and stay on track for graduation. Career Services worked with her to update her resume for the first time in many years. “They were like plastics surgeons!” Raker said. “By the time we were finished, my resume was slimmer and younger looking than when we started.” 

She also participated in the Adrian Project in 2019, a simulated, interactive IRS criminal investigation designed to introduce tax and accounting students to career options in law enforcement. “Catherine went after every opportunity that presented itself. She really immersed herself in the program,” said Richard Davidson, Associate Professor and Chair of the Taxation and Business Law Department.

New Connections and Opportunities

In addition to personal attention from faculty, Raker’s small class sizes gave her a chance to interact with other students, as well. “I was able to connect with other tax professionals in my classes who are as passionate about taxation as I am,” she said. “And learning about tax law expanded my knowledge even beyond what I was learning in my work environment.”

Raker graduated in June 2019 and was awarded the Everett M. Hawley Jr. Taxation Award for excellence in taxation. Today she is a senior tax associate at a tax, business valuation, and litigation advisory firm, a position she was recruited for by one of her professors!

When asked what she would say to someone considering Walsh, Raker was enthusiastic. “What are you waiting for? Do it! If you don’t start now, in six months you’ll wish you had started six months earlier.

Remember where I was 30 years ago? Dreams don’t have an expiration date.”

Headshot courtesy of Elayne Gross.

Are you ready to take the first step toward your dreams?

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