The Last Word


Welcome Home

Originally from Peoria, Illinois, I had never been in Des Moines before visiting Drake University. I knew nothing about the city except that it is the state capital of Iowa. By the end of my first visit, I knew I was headed there to pursue my educational goals (a degree in business) at Drake.

One of the biggest factors in choosing a college was size—small enough to develop lasting relationships, large enough to expose me to new ideas and opportunities. Drake is the perfect size. I made great friends as soon as I arrived and felt more and more comfortable being myself in this new environment. It helped—and relieved some common stress—that I was doing surprisingly well academically my first year in college. I was able to relax, discover new things, and get involved while learning about myself along the way. I thought I would never want to leave college. What I didn’t realize then were the many opportunities awaiting me beyond campus.

Last summer I secured an internship with KPMG, which was a great opportunity to have conversations with professionals in public accounting and, more specifically, the auditing practice. I took time to learn more about the profession and KPMG as a company and started to realize that this was exactly what I wanted to do. This is when I not only fell in love with the career path I was headed down but also the city of Des Moines.

Both the city and the workplace allowed me to stay fast-paced—much like my personality. I took in new experiences, getting acquainted with the city and exploring outside the “Drake bubble.” The farmers market, concerts, and other local events showed me the personality of Des Moines. The more I allowed myself to embrace the city and everything it had to offer, the more I fell in love with not just Drake but also Des Moines. I’ve found that a big part of learning and growing is to challenge yourself and try new things. And that’s exactly what I was able to do.

Four years ago, one of my professors and then vice provost of the University, Wanda Everage, taught a class called Intellectual Maturity and Personal Development. The name was appropriate; my classmates and I learned about ourselves and about growing into mature adults through new experiences. Wanda never answered our questions directly but gave us the tools to find the answers on our own.

One of the things she taught me was the idea of home—that  home may not necessarily be a physical place but something more abstract and defined by each person in a unique way. My idea of home is the place where I feel comfortable and where I can fulfill my life goals while being surrounded by the people who can help make those aspirations a reality.

As unreal as it seems, the month of May is just around the corner, and with it comes graduation. I’ve recognized the fact that I will not be a college student forever—and I’ve accepted a full-time position with KPMG. My life has expanded from Drake University to the city of Des Moines, a place I will call home for many years to come.

—Shannon Coughlon, Class of 2014 

Photo direction and design by Nicole Dyar, Class of 2014

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