University Relations and Marketing

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Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269

April 28, 2009

It all adds up for Golden Merit winner

From home-schooled concentration to college commitment, Kerry Lou Vowell embodies student excellence

MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — To say that Kerry Lou Vowell likes accounting is like saying birds are somewhat fond of flying. Flight isn’t necessary for survival, but imperative for soaring above the crowd.

That’s what accounting is for Vowell. Her human existence is not at stake, but spreadsheets, tables and numbers are a part of her being.

“I really like spreadsheets,” said Vowell in a recent interview, eyes bright with wonder. “It’s like a puzzle where you can work out solutions… just in a different way of thinking.”

Kerry VowellAnd in her way of thinking, the only thing better than an accounting problem is helping others with their accounting problems.

Her commitment to her academic career and her field of study got the attention of faculty members in the Montana State University Billings College of Business and she was selected as this year’s Golden Merit Award recipient for outstanding scholarship, leadership and community service. Vowell, who completed her studies last December, will be among the 872 candidates for graduation who get their degrees at the 82nd annual commencement ceremonies at MetraPark on Saturday, May 2. She will be honored with Rob Barnosky, Outstanding Senior award recipient at convocations on Friday as well at commencement on Saturday.

Dr. Barbara Wheeling, assistant professor of accounting at MSU Billings and listed by Vowell as one of her major influences, said Vowell epitomized the excellence of students at MSU Billings. Calling her “intelligent,” “hard-working” and “conscientious,” — adjectives that could be used to describe many students — Wheeling said Vowell had special traits.

“Kerry has demonstrated a strong ethical character,” Wheeling said in a nomination letter. “She has also indicated a strong concern for her community. She has spoken to me about wanting to work for a company that was not focused just on making profits, but also on the benefit of the local community.”

The 22-year-old Vowell is the oldest of five children of Lewis and Karen Vowell of Billings. A home-school student who worked extra hours in her teen years to learn calculus, completed her work for an accounting degree with a cumulative 3.99 grade-point average. (She still remembers that one business class in which she didn’t pull an A, but holds no grudges.)

Along the way, she received several academic scholarships, was involved in the Accounting Club (including two years as president), the Honors Club, the College of Business Student Advisory Board and is a member of the local and state chapters of the Society of CPAs. She served as a lab leader for a Business 101 class for a semester and volunteered with Disability Support Services to help students with special needs.

Dr. Gary Young, the dean at the College of Business, has said that Vowell has been “a go-to student at the COB.”
The need to remain focused as a home-school student helped her prepare for the rigors of a demanding college career, she said. Balancing her time was something she was already used to doing.

“I did a lot of self-study so it was pretty easy for me to jump into college,” she said. “I developed those skills early on. The only thing I couldn’t do is roll over in bed and grab my math book, I had to actually get out of my pajamas and drive to school.”

Since finishing her studies this past winter, she interviewed with several companies and landed a job with Lone Mountain Production Co., a local natural gas company.

Vowell said she chose MSU Billings for college because off location, value and reputation.

“I heard about its good reputation at the College of Business and the price was right,” she said. “It all worked out well.”

She said she was especially fond of the supportive faculty.

“I had a lot of encouragement from all of my professors, so it is really hard to pick a favorite,” she said. “I liked the small classes and getting to know the faculty and fellow students.”

Studying is still on her agenda. She’s taking a series of test to be fully licensed as a certified public accountant and is even considering graduate school. And, not missing a beat, she is keeping up her volunteer regimen, helping Rocky Mountain Community Church and Peacemaker Ministries with their books.

Ask her about it, however, and Vowell simply offers a smile and a modest “that’s what I do” response.

Actually, judging by her work and accolades, it’s how she soars.

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