Redefining the Classroom

Great Lake State Weekend 2012

Paul Ripley Young Alumna Award

Heather J. Benjamin '01

Heather Benjamin followed in her parents' footsteps to become a Laker. Now she's blazing her own trail in the business world and is being recognized for her accomplishments with the Paul Ripley Young Alumna Award.

The Ripley Award recognizes LSSU alumni who have enjoyed exceptional personal and professional success early in their careers. Heather graduated in 2001 with a bachelor's degree in accounting, obtained her CPA license in Michigan and Illinois in 2003, and earned a master's in business administration from Michigan State University in 2006. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in organizational leadership and business management.

In addition, she remains connected to her alma mater, returning to campus regularly for Great Lake State Weekend and special events. As a former member of LSSU Students in Free Enterprise, she participated as a SIFE judge in Chicago and took the LSSU SIFE team to dinner when it was competing there.

"My education at LSSU has given me the opportunity to work for the largest of the Big Four international accounting firms with professionals who have degrees from Yale, Northwestern, University of Michigan, University of Chicago and other tier one business schools," Heather said. "LSSU is very competitive and our degrees are first-class. I am extremely proud to be a Laker and we Lakers bring a tremendous amount of knowledge and proven work ethic to corporate America. I was fortunate to follow in my parents' footsteps and join the LSSU alumni family. Through the support of my parents and LSSU professors, I have been able to achieve career goals and create several new ones."

Heather's parents, Gary and Dolores, graduated from LSSU in 1970 and 1971, respectively. Gary was the recipient of the Alumni Association's Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2001 and was a former member of the LSSU Board of Trustees.

Since earning her bachelor's degree, Heather has worked and lived in Illinois, Michigan, New York and, recently, Waterford, Wisc., not too far from her hometown of Iron Mountain, Mich. She is currently a manager with Deloitte LLP out of the Chicago office, a position she accepted earlier this year.

"At Deloitte, I'm working as a manager in the Audit and Enterprise Risk Services function with a primary focus on business risk for bank and financial services clients," Heather said. "My role is to provide guidance and support services to our banking and financial services clients regarding regulatory and legal requirements."

Heather moved from Illinois to Wisconsin three years ago to take a position with Associated Banc-Corp. as the manager of Corporate Compliance and eventually moved into the role of senior risk manager, SVP, of Enterprise Risk Management.

"I decided to leave Associated and go back into public accounting to broaden my banking knowledge and exposure," Heather said of her recent move. "As the regulatory environment is extremely volatile right now, and new laws are being issued and implemented almost monthly, there is a great opportunity to establish subject matter expertise in the banking industry. The complexity of the new requirements and amount of changes needed in order to be compliant can be daunting to large, established banking organizations. At Deloitte, I am gaining hands-on training from subject-matter experts with much knowledge in this field so I can assist clients in meeting new requirements. It is a busy and exciting time to be a consultant in the banking industry."

While she is officially part of the Deloitte Chicago office, Heather travels frequently. Her current assignment has her traveling primarily to Charlotte, NC, where she is working with Bank of America, NA. In the U.S., Deloitte and its subsidiaries employ 45,000 people working in four key business areas: audit, financial advisory, tax and consulting. It is considered to be one of the top four firms of its type in the world. From 2001-2007, Heather worked for another of the "Big Four" public accounting firms while in Chicago – KPMG, LLP. At KPMG, she was manager of Transaction Services Due Diligence for Lenders Group. She was also senior associate in Internal Audit and an associate in External Audit functions at KPMG.