Science, Society and the Arts Presents: Matthew Rickert ‘18 Matthew Rickert ‘18: avid outdoorsman by day, corporate fraud analyst by night
“W&L is a campus with a plethora of interests and ideas. We have students interested in everything, and not just their major. This means that people want to share what they know and others want to learn something that they wouldn’t be able to take a class on.”
Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, or various other methods.
Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances being presented by the students.
Norfolk Southern: Behaviors and Events Related to Fraud Risks
Q. Can you describe your project?
This project came out of “The Anatomy of Fraud” class that I took during Spring Term 2017. The overall goal of the project was to produce a memo in the style of an auditor. One of the first items that auditors look at is the qualitative factors that might lead to fraud; they assess the risks so that they may understand where misstatements are likely to occur. This project does exactly that for Norfolk Southern, a long-term rail company that I worked for during the summer of 2017.
Q. What about the topic made you explore it?
I was interested in learning more about the company that I would be working for. Additionally, I was interested in furthering my understanding of the career that I wish to pursue, as an auditor.
Q. What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?
The Code of Ethics for Norfolk Southern (NS) is rather lengthy. Coming in at 64 pages, this code provides the ethics backbone for NS. That being said, 64 pages was almost too much material. The time and energy it takes to read through the entire code was larger than what a reasonable employee would want or have time to do. A long code seems like a great idea, covering all the bases, but longer codes will not be read as intensely.
Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Understanding the train industry was one of my bigger challenges. Whenever an auditor is looking at a company it is important that they understand how the corporation functions and operates. As a person who had never spent time looking at trains, taking the time to understand the varying expenses as well as taking a more in-depth look at where there sources of revenue came from created challenges.
Q. What insight – or insights – did you gain during the research period?
Anyone can commit fraud. Companies that have been around for over 100 are still at risk. The reality of the world is that pressure and motivation to commit fraud will always exist. It is society’s expectations and the innate goodwill of people that prevents the collapse of the market, and when that fails we developed a profession to catch rule breakers.
Q. What is your favorite part of creating, researching, or developing this project?
Creating the Fraud Heat Map. This three-colored square shows likelihood of fraud on the y-axis and significance of fraud on the x-axis. Creating this added a lot to the paper, giving it a greater degree of readability and bringing the entire paper together.
Q. What does SSA mean to you?
SSA is a look into what it means to be human. Science is how we have built civilization, it is what drives us forward and provides us with the necessary motivations to be more. Society is what makes civilization function, it is the law and order that keeps humanity functioning. Art is what makes civilization unique, it is the beauty and culture present in all cultures.
Q. Why is SSA – considering science, society, and arts together – important to this campus?
W&L is a campus with a plethora of interests and ideas. We have students interested in everything, and not just their major. This means that people want to share what they know and others want to learn something that they wouldn’t be able to take a class on. SSA provides W&L students with an outlet for all of the ideas bouncing around in our heads.
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A little more about Matthew
Public Accounting and U.S. History
– Outing Club Key Staff
– Crux Climbing Team Captain
– LEAD Management Team (Team Manager)
– LEAD Banquet Committee
– Alpha Phi Omega President
– Compost Crew Chief
– University Sustainability Committee
– Venture Club Events Director
– WLUR DJ and Music Reviewer
– JAG Member
– College Access Mentor
– Sigma Nu Member
Avid Outdoorsman and Chef
Why did you choose your major?
As I began to tour colleges, the concept of a career began to form. My dad has always been a big influence on me and he had a piece of advice for me: “You have to like what you do and it has to give you the lifestyle that you want to live.” There are a lot of things that I would like to do, but the capacity for me to pay for travel, medical expenses, a future child’s college, would not be as complete as I would want. On the other end of the spectrum I looked at extremely high-paying professions, and it seemed to me that I would have to give up too much of what I enjoyed to be a part of those careers. In the end I found that accounting provided me with an enjoyable skill, a puzzle waiting to be solved, and the pay necessary to provide a family with the lifestyle that I feel they will deserve.
I have also always been interested in history. There was a time when my brother and I would listen to a cassette of Jeff Shaara’s book “Gods and Generals.” I have always been surrounded by history. Today, that inspiration is an item that provides me with an outlet for research, writing and storytelling. To me, understanding the story of who we are and where we came from is so unique and wonderful that it has become an indispensable part of who I am.
What professor has inspired you?
There have been a lot of professors to inspire me. They include James Dick, a mentor in adventure; Professor Hess, a mentor in accounting; Dean Hobbs, a mentor in leadership; and Professor Myers, a mentor in history. It’s terribly hard for me to pick one, as they have all contributed to my college experiences and impacted my life. That’s part of what makes W&L so special — it is a place where every professor cares about you and what you are doing.
What’s your personal motto?
“To those devoid of imagination a blank place on a map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.” Aldo Leopold
What’s your favorite song right now?
“Wolf” by Jami Lynn
Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Blue Phoenix, by and large. When I go, I typically change it up, but you can’t go wrong with the Harvest Moon Wrap.
What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
Recently I’ve been discovering the areas beyond Lexington (Waynesboro, Staunton, Roanoke, etc.). It’s been nice to explore these areas and see the cities of western Virginia.
I’ll most likely be working for Ernst & Young out of their Richmond office.
Favorite W&L memory
I’d have to say my trip on the Kendrick Scholarship to the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness near Tofte, Minnesota. I spent a week and a half paddling through the back country, exploring the lakes of the region and finding solace in the quiet.
I really enjoyed Environmental Poetry, but The Anatomy of Fraud, and Reconstruction, are right up there.
Favorite W&L event:
I always enjoy the Outing Club’s first event or open barn. The excitement and camaraderie is incredible.
Favorite campus landmark:
The back campus gazebo. The views from there are incredible, it’s a great spot to relax and enjoy a breath of fresh air.
What’s your passion?
The outdoors and their exploration. Going out to discover what I am missing, what is there, finding that spot on the map that I don’t know about. We often times become too caught up in the hubbub of the world and don’t take the necessary steps to push outside of our comfort zone. The wilderness is a place where I can relax.
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
This is a bit of a twist on the question, but most people assume that I am a Boy Scout when I am not. A lot of people make that assumption.
Why did you choose W&L?
When I was touring colleges a lot of places just felt wrong. They were too city, too symmetrical, too uptight, too rigid. W&L felt right. There were places to explore, a sense of constant growth, the garden beds had a few weeds. Additionally, I was looking for a college with a liberal arts experience as well as a quality business school. I was looking for a community, a place where people trust each other and want to help everyone. W&L seemed to fit everything I was looking for and certainly has lived up to its billing.