Catchin’ Up with...Nicole (Oswald) Lauer
I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Salisbury University campus for the first time in close to 15 years. I came to campus to speak to the Perdue School’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi about career opportunities with KPMG, the Big 4 public accounting and consulting firm where I just recently celebrated a career milestone of 15 years. I graduated from Salisbury “State” University (the last graduating class with “State” on the diploma) in 2001 with an information systems degree from the Perdue School. I went to work for KPMG as a staff consultant in the advisory practice during the summer after graduation. Fifteen years has gone by a lot faster than I would have ever imagined back when I left Salisbury to return home to Baltimore to begin my adult life and career.
I got to campus early that day in September because I wanted to spend some time walking to see what has changed, and also to try and mentally take myself back to the days of being a student at Salisbury. There was still a lot on campus to take me back there: the dorms looked virtually unchanged, the Commons still served build-your-own stir-fry and the administrative offices in Fulton Hall looked exactly like they did in the days when I worked there as a work-study assistant. The students looked the same – dressed in shorts and flip-flops and walking in groups toward the dining hall for lunch. In my 37-year-old mind, I believed I looked like I could still be one of them.
While there were some core things that hadn’t changed, the differences between the 2001 and 2016 campuses were just amazing. The Perdue School – the Salisbury institution and home to some wonderful professors who afforded me the opportunity for a successful career with KPMG – was no longer in the basement of Holloway Hall! The Perdue School building now lives up to the academic reputation of Salisbury’s business program and offers a technology-enabled space that rivals office buildings and learning centers in some of the top companies I’ve done business with over my career. The ribbon on the new Guerrieri Academic Commons was freshly cut only days before and an impressive science building towered in the former classroom location where I received my only B in college (physical geography was not my thing). I couldn’t help but think, “I wish I had gone to this Salisbury!”
There were some marked differences in the people as well – students all over campus were using cell phones and smart phones. They probably texted their friends to make meeting plans for lunch. I used to walk the Commons dining room with my tray looking for a friend or familiar face if I wasn’t able to secure a lunch plan before class. There were no lines for the computer lab – probably because most students were checking their email from their phone or their personal laptop, connected to the campus wi-fi. When I was at Salisbury, I went to the computer lab on the first floor of Fulton Hall to check my Groupwise account every couple of days. Sometimes I had no new messages (today I have over 700 unread emails in my inbox). On the day I visited campus, my old favorite computer lab had been converted to an art studio.
After my campus walk, I spent time with some of the Perdue School students – primarily accounting and information systems majors – at the first Beta Alpha Psi meeting of the year and was unbelievably impressed at the caliber and quality of students who continue to move through Salisbury’s campus and the business school program. We talked about building resumes, interviewing, and I shared a bit about opportunities in public accounting and consulting. The students were gracious and attentive, listening to me go on and on about my own memories of Salisbury and the type of work I do at KPMG.
On the drive back to Baltimore that day, I reflected on all the changes in my life and career since I left Salisbury in 2001. I married my husband Chris, a fellow alum, in 2007. I’ve had two beautiful Sea Gull babies – Maggie in 2010 and Jordy in 2013. Chris and I recently purchased a small condo in our favorite resort town in the world – Ocean City, MD. And I’ve realized some really great opportunities and milestones in my career with KPMG as well. I’ve helped build an IT advisory practice in Baltimore from a relatively small five-person team to a very talented and diverse 18-person team. I’ve had the opportunity to work with large, global companies from all types of industries, forming relationships and building a strong network of colleagues, clients and friends. I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the country, as well as internationally to places like the U.K., France and, most recently, China. And finally, I’ve achieved five career promotions since I began with KPMG – with the most recent promotion being to partner.
Because of my experiences, I recently was invited by leaders in the Perdue School Information Systems (IS) Program to join an advisory council to help provide input and advancement of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) major. Not only am I honored to be able to give back to the University that has given me so much, but I also am looking forward to the opportunity for more wonderful and nostalgic visits back to the Salisbury campus.