Updated: Jan 6, 2021
'I hope in my day-to-day interactions that I could be an example for someone like me, or a first-generation college student to say, “She did it. I can do it too.”'
Queen E. King is the Associate Vice President of Financial Services & Controller at California State University, Bakersfield. Queen is responsible for overseeing the financial reporting, accounting, audit, tax, and budget for the University. She earned her Bachelor's in accounting & international business and her Master's in accountancy from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She also earned a certificate in management and leadership from University of California, Los Angeles.
We sat down with Queen to find out about all things accounting and her experience being on staff at a major university.
Q: I grew up and was educated in East St. Louis, Illinois. It's a pretty rough place to grow up as a kid. I was always told that education could get me out of where I was. So, I always worked hard to be a really good student. I knew very young I needed to go to college to change trajectory. I was part of program called Upward Bound which helped me going into college because my parents weren't educated. My mom was a single parent. My dad was murdered when I was a child. She raised us the best she could.
Upward Bound was the biggest lifesaver for me because it was a program for high-risk youth. They were phenomenal. They had counselors. They had tutors that helped us a lot with our school work. I remember my teachers who helped me with my college essays, the directors and the counselors that helped me fill out college applications. I didn’t have money to pay for college applications. Upward Bound helped pay for my college applications. Upward Bound was a huge support system for me.
Also, my church helped me quite a bit after I graduated school. My first job was in corporate America, and I had to wear a suit every day. A kid like me couldn’t afford a suit. I remember saying, ‘I finally got a job, but I don’t have any clothes to wear.’ People pitched in to make sure I had clothes to wear for my first day at work.
Can you elaborate a little bit on what kept you on the right path towards education?
I think it was exposure. I became a part of Upward Bound probably my 8th grade year. I had never left East St. Louis. We couldn’t afford to go out to eat. We couldn't afford vacations. We never went to movies. We never had activities unless they were school activities. Upward Bound was great at exposing participants to different avenues. If you did well during the summer, you got an opportunity to go on a summer trip. I had never gone to Atlanta. They took us to Atlanta to see Martin Luther King’s house. They took us to see various museums. We went to Chicago one summer for one of our trips, and it was just amazing to see everything on the outside having that exposure. They would take us to visit various college campuses just to see what college was like. I was like, ‘Oh yeah. I most definitely want to do this. I want to live like this. I want to be able to go on vacation. I want to be able to take my child on vacation. And if I make it out, maybe I can be an example to somebody else to say, "Hey, you can you can do it too."'
After graduating from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), Queen gained experience by working as an accountant in a variety of different sectors, from corporate accounting and financial reporting for the May Department Stores Company to working as an account manager at Dignity Health. When presented with the opportunity to work at an academic institution, Queen recalls her journey to CSU Bakersfield:
I walked into my first interview and was like, “Oh wow, this place is awesome." I love that the majority of our students are first-generation college students, just like me. I get to be around and help people like me to succeed in their goal. Our culture is wonderful.
Can you elaborate a little bit about your experiences and responsibilities?
I'm the Associate Vice President of financial services at State University Bakersfield. We have approximately 11,000 students, and I'm responsible for the accounting, financial reporting, tax, and financial compliance for the University. In simple terms, I make sure that all of our tax forms are filed and fulfill any type of financial request made from outside entities. I’m responsible for all of the audits that occur on campus and to ensure we have clean audits. I lead a team of five. I have Student Financial Services, which is the face of the financial services team. They interact a lot from the customer service standpoint with the students from paying their bills, collecting cash, accounts receivable, and things of that sort. Then, I have the campus accounting portion. We have a couple of auxiliaries on campus that support our students, research, and donor activities.
On campus, we have a Black staff and faculty group which gets together monthly to talk about supporting Black students on campus and new staff and faculty, because our university is quite large and sometimes we don't get a chance to see each other. We use that group to support one another and talk about different programming we may want to have on campus. I'm the co-chair of the welcoming committee. We get a lot of people that are new to the community. For instance, where can you go to find Black haircare products in Bakersfield? If you're looking for a specific barber, or you're looking for someone that can braid hair or do your twists, my group [provides] help and resources. Working at a large campus like ours, you need to know who to talk to about a specific issue you’re having. We're the group that helps with the onboarding of new faculty and staff. Everything isn’t in orientation, and sometimes you need to reach out and ask someone a question.
How diverse is your field?
Our accounting team is very small, but we’re very diverse. We have a nice mixture of minorities, women, men. We're a pretty diverse campus. We are a minority serving institution.
Was the diversity in the corporate sector similar to CSU Bakersfield?
No, not quite. Even from the standpoint of being at SIUE, oftentimes I was the only Black person in my classes which sometimes could be difficult. I remember one of my first college experiences; I was one of the only Black students, which could be very intimidating to a kid who never attended college, and the professors said, “Look to your left. Look to your right. One of those people won't be here by the end of the year.” And the whole class is looking at the only Black person in class. That can be quite intimidating when you walk into a place and you don't see anyone that looks like you. I grew up in a community that was 99% Black. That was a new experience in itself. And I've worked in other places where I may have been the only minority or the only Black person on the team.
What has been your most rewarding experience at CSU Bakersfield?
I’m a part of the management on the soccer field for commencement. To me that is the most rewarding because I get to see all of the students at the end of their college education, to see that they made it. I sometimes have students working on my team as freshmen or sophomores, and I hear their stories of how they’re struggling in their classes or they’re trying to balance work and life. To see them walk across the middle aisle to the processional is awesome. They did it. They made it. All through the process when I’m interacting with them I’m like, ‘It’s going to go by so fast. You can do this.’
What is some advice you can give to students and aspiring accountants?
When I graduated, I wanted to work in corporate America. I remember taking interviews and people were like, “Well, why don't you consider being an accounting clerk? Why don't you consider that?” Sometimes it can seem like it takes a very long time, but you just have to be persistent. If that is truly what you want to do, be persistent. Ask questions. You'd be very surprised where you can get really good advice about how to progress your career, or where to get started. Be open to internships. And it's okay sometimes if you’re thinking that you've wanted to go down one career path but maybe that's not quite for you and you want to try something new.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I’m not sure. I'm a part of the Western Association of College and University Business Officers’ program, and I've been assigned a mentor. She's helping me map out my skills and goals in how I want to see my future.
What is the ultimate legacy you would like to leave behind?
I hope in my day-to-day interactions that I could be an example for someone like me, or a first-generation college student to say, “She did it. I can do it too.” The past sometimes can be a little bit rough, but we're opening that path for someone else to come behind and make it a lot easier.