The Columns

Social Responsibility Kate Donnelly ’11 is using her education and Shepherd experiences to improve her local community.

— by on December 7th, 2017

Kate Donnelly ’11

Kate Donnelly ’11 interned with Cooper’s Ferry Development Association as a Shepherd student and is currently the manager of accounting operations at Goodwill of Greater Washington, D.C. Prior to Goodwill, Kate worked for Ernst & Young in its assurance services practice and served as EY’s community engagement champion. Kate helps run the mentor program for the Elrod Fellowship program in D.C.

Q: How did the Shepherd Program shape your years at W&L?
While I was a business and accounting major at Washington and Lee, my four years in college were more defined by my minor in poverty studies. I’ll never forget walking into Dr. Beckley’s Poverty 101 class my first semester in college. At the time, I had no clue how much that one class would impact my future. I knew going into W&L that I would want to participate in the Shepherd Program on some level, but I was totally hooked after the first class. Poverty 101 covered real issues that all majors and minors could relate to. The Shepherd Program allowed me to apply my desire to improve my local community with my business and accounting education. I catered my course schedule to include a multitude of business and accounting classes, while also taking a couple of Poverty Studies classes each term.

My education culminated in my Poverty capstone project, where I partnered with a fellow classmate to perform an assessment of the personal finance environment in Rockbridge County, Virginia. We spent 12 weeks interviewing local residents and community leaders throughout the county and meeting with local banks, police forces and lenders to assess the personal finance environment in Rockbridge County. From that, we developed a report analyzing our results and suggesting ways in which our university community could assist.

Q: How did the Shepherd Program impact your career/graduate studies?
After graduating, I took a job with Ernst & Young in its assurance practice. Though I knew long term that I wanted to do something more community-based, I was attracted by the people of EY and knew the firm would provide meaningful experiences for professional growth. While at EY, I volunteered in its corporate social responsibility group and acted as the community engagement leader for the Greater Washington office. My involvement in EY Community Engagement gave me a view of the many ways in which a large organization like EY can impact its community. The experiences and education I encountered through the Shepherd Program provided a different perspective than most of my EY colleagues, which helped me greatly in all of my roles with the firm.

In 2015, I decided to shift gears to work where I could see my efforts more directly impact my local community. With the advice and support of W&L mentors and professors, I joined Raffa P.C., a public accounting firm specializing in non-profit accounting. It was a great combination of my business and accounting background and my passion for improving my local community — exactly what I worked on throughout college. My experience at Raffa ultimately let me to my current role at Goodwill of Greater Washington as manager of accounting operations. My experiences from the Shepherd Program led me to where I am today.

Q: Why is this program important for W&L?
The Shepherd Program not only taught me the importance of facing the social issues in our communities, but more importantly, the program taught me that it is the responsibility of our entire community to help. Profitable businesses and social responsibility are not mutually exclusive, but can often intertwine to create win-win situations for both the bottom line and the community. The program allows students to pursue their careers with a different perspective, creating community conscious professionals, leaders and citizens.