Ayse Keskincelik was in elementary school when she understood what two of her older sisters, both accountants, do for a living.
She remembers drawing their graphs, charts and spreadsheets as if copying pieces of art.
“My sisters were so patient,” said Keskincelik, whose first name is pronounced Ai-sha. “They influenced me.”
That sweet story has even more resonance since the senior accounting major at George Mason University earned an internship at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C.
Keskincelik wasn’t looking for an internship when she and seven other accounting honors students visited the SEC with School of Business accounting professor Karen Kitching in late September. But the energy in the office and, as Keskincelik said, “the opportunity to learn there firsthand,” inspired her to apply that night.
She is one of 37 accepted out of 362 applicants and is assisting the Division of Corporation Finance complete its review of publicly traded companies, mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and doing special projects to support that mission.
“To get an internship at the SEC is very prestigious,” Kitching said. “Every accounting firm will want her after that. That’s going to open up a lot of doors to a lot of things.”
Keskincelik, 34, came to the United States from her native Turkey in 2009. Her husband has a small business. Their daughters are Sude, 10, and Seray, 6. They live in Lorton, Va.
After two years at Northern Virginia Community College, where she earned an associate’s degree in business administration and improved her English, Keskincelik enrolled at George Mason.
“I visited a couple of times and talked to students and friends who graduated from here,” she said. “I saw the opportunities. I saw how they grew. That was what I was looking for.”
Family obligations, her studies and a spring graduation almost derailed her SEC internship, which is unpaid and is supposed to be full time. Keskincelik emailed her concerns to staff at the SEC, and they agreed to a 15-hour work week.
“It’s a competitive program, so anyone we bring on board are top performers,” said Melissa Rocha, senior assistant chief accountant in the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance. “For her to be selected and then not do it because of a scheduling conflict would be unfortunate, so we wanted to accommodate her.”
Keskincelik has much to offer the SEC. She was a financial accountant for nine years in Turkey, where she said she produced financial statements and handled tax preparations.
“Extremely impressive,” Rocha said.
“And she’s an outstanding student, one of the top in my class,” said Bret Johnson, assistant professor of accounting who taught Keskincelik in ACCT 332 Financial Accounting III. “She was always participating, always engaged in lectures.”
Keskincelik said her time at Mason and the SEC are “a bridge between my [past] knowledge and today’s knowledge.”
“I just wanted to be an accountant again,” she said. “I just wanted my career back.”