A World of Possibility Between the classroom and her community volunteer work, Katherine Ho '23 has built a W&L experience that is already paying off in the career world.
Katherine Ho ’23
Hometown: Naperville, Illinois
Minor: Poverty Studies
“I’ve changed my career path a lot over the past few years, but I think that’s one of the beauties of W&L. I don’t have to know – I can be thinking and exploring, and I don’t feel limited.”
~ Katherine Ho ’23
Katherine Ho ’23 knew she wanted to study accounting before she ever stepped foot on the Washington and Lee University campus. Now in her junior year, she has no doubt that she picked the best academic path for herself.
“The best thing about being an accounting major has been all of my professors. It’s hard to pick just one,” she said. “They have always been there to answer my questions, and I’ve always been able to build relationships with professors in the Accounting Department.”
What Ho did not expect when she was a first-year student signing up for POV 102, Introduction to Community-Based Poverty Studies, was that three years later, she would find herself so devoted to serving the community around W&L. Her initial POV 102 placement with The Community Table (TCT), a nonprofit that seeks to relieve hunger in the area, has blossomed into a position as vice president of administration on the TCT board.
“I think my biggest surprise has been enjoying the work at TCT. I had no idea that TCT would be in my life years later,” she said. “I’m an introvert, so serving people and talking to people is definitely a big push out of my comfort zone, but I’m really grateful for where I ended up.”
The Community Table was established in 2010 to address food needs among Rockbridge County families. It serves hot meals to anyone in the community every Monday evening, regardless of a guest’s ability to pay for the meal. Volunteers staff the restaurant, wait on guests and take care of any other tasks associated with running the service.
One of the biggest projects Ho has undertaken at TCT was helping to convert its Monday service to a drive-through operation after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also schedules board meetings, plans committee membership and runs TCT’s social media accounts, among other tasks. But she said the most fulfilling part of the work has been honing her communication skills by talking to people, listening to their feedback and incorporating that into better serving the community.
“I’ve met a lot of wonderful people,” she said. “I still ask a lot of questions to make sure I’m listening and taking advice from people who have been coming to TCT for years, and from the board members who have been on the board since the beginning.”
As a first-year student, Ho was also a member of the Shepherd Program’s Good Nabors cohort. That cohort, along with the Bonner Scholars program and the #hungerfighters cohort, educates first-year students about the Shepherd Program, introduces them to service learning, helps them make friends and sets them up for further involvement in the program. As a sophomore and junior, she has served on the executive leadership board of the Nabors Service League, where she helps plan volunteer community service days for W&L students with community partners such as Habitat for Humanity and Woods Creek Montessori School.
“It’s exciting to plan and get to know different community organizations,” she said. “It’s a small way to make me feel a little more connected to the Shepherd Program. I am meeting other kids who love to serve the community.”
Ho has also completed an Americorps Vista summer internship with a homeless shelter near her hometown in Illinois, where her favorite project was shooting family portraits for guests of the shelter. In addition, she had a summer Shepherd Internship at The Reinvestment Fund, a financial institution in Philadelphia that help connect underserved people and communities with funding.
Back on the accounting side, Ho spent the summer between her sophomore and junior years in an accounting internship with Bandwidth, a software communications company in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her mentor there empowered her to explore a specialized area of personal interest to her: sustainability. Ho found herself volunteering to update Bandwidth’s environment, social and corporate governance (ESG) report. These reports contain both quantitative and qualitative data that helps educate stakeholders and investors about the company’s operations in key areas.
Ho leaned on what she’d learned as a research assistant to Megan Hess, associate professor of accounting at W&L, to conduct research, gather data and present a list of suggestions to top executives at Bandwidth. Just before leaving her internship, she wrote the report and built a presentation for the board of directors. In October, she received word that it had been approved and posted to the company’s website.
“It was so exciting to see all of that hard work in a final product,” she said.
Ho has dabbled in a number of interests at W&L, learning hard skills in the classroom and soft skills in her nonprofit work. This summer, she will intern at Macquarie Capitol in New York. She plans to work in banking right out of college but hopes to tie all of her interests into a career in the public sector later on.
“I’ve changed my career path a lot over the past few years, but I think that’s one of the beauties of W&L,” she said. “I don’t have to know – I can be thinking and exploring, and I don’t feel limited.”
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