Path to Purple: WSU-R alum Brittany Wilson making her mark on Rochester
In life, our paths are rarely a straight line forward. Rather, they often take a few twists and turns or at the very least, a curve here and there. Brittany Wilson has jumped at every opportunity to twist and turn, using these opportunities to propel herself forward in her education and her career.
Brittany first came to Rochester from Mankato for RCTC’s radiography program. A little ways into the program, she decided to change her course of study to accounting.
By utilizing RCTC and WSU-Rochester’s degree completion initiative, Path to Purple, Brittany became the first college graduate in her family, receiving her bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2012 from WSU-R.
“My immediate family doesn’t have any college education so it was really important for me to set a good example not only for my younger brother, but also to create this future step for my family,” she says.
After starting her own bookkeeping business, she eventually took another twist and transitioned into commercial real estate, which she now does full-time, in addition to her many active volunteering roles in the Rochester area.
We recently sat down with Brittany in her favorite coffee shop, Café Steam, to discuss her educational journey and how it has reinforced her impact in the workforce and in the community.
Minor edits were made for flow and clarity.
So, what have you been up to since you graduated from WSU-R?
I started my own bookkeeping business my senior year in college, and then I was showing some apartments here and there on the side and next thing you know, I was managing multiple apartments at one point and slowly made the transition to get my commercial real estate license.
I had been doing property management and commercial real estate for the last three years, and around November of last year I transitioned into being a full-time commercial real estate agent.
Tell us about your work with planning and zoning commission?
This year, I’m the vice chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission for the City of Rochester. This position is voluntary and is appointed by the mayor, so when I found out I got this opportunity, it was very exciting. It's kind of a front row seat for what's happening in our city, and it’s certainly something that’s close to my heart. I love getting to know people — seeing architects, engineers, owners, applicants of these different realms. It’s just been a great opportunity to be a part of the commission.
How has your education prepared you for your work in these fields?
Being in commercial real estate, I handle a lot on the tenant/landlord end of things. A part of working a lot with small business owners is making sure that the space is financially feasible for them. Through the accounting program I went through at WSU-R, I learned a lot about financial statements, accounting information systems and understanding that the businesses I work with need to be profitable. I’m able to apply this knowledge by helping set them up for success.
I’m not doing the day-to-day accounting that I was doing when I first got out of college. Now, I’ve been able to mix that [work] with other aspects of my life. I’m doing real estate and am able to incorporate volunteering, real estate and that [accounting] background into that. I'm making sure that I’m setting these businesses on the right paths and knowing that if they're growing, I’m going to grow with them. It's not just about a quick deal, it's about these long-term relationships. Most of them become friendships, too, which is more exciting.
Were there any faculty members that stood out to you during your time in school?
Professor Larry Sallee was one of my accounting instructors and he was very impactful throughout my college life. There were a couple times I was crying in his office and he just told me that everything was going to be OK. He guided me in a great way. He also always started class by saying ‘it's a great day.’ It could be raining outside or we're getting ready for a big exam and he's here saying ‘it's a great day.’
The other person I want to mention is June Meitzner. When I was going through the Path to Purple program, I got to work with her in the business office. There were times where I'd have a big exam coming up and I really needed that extra 30 minutes, so she would let me do some studying. In some ways, she felt like a second mom to me because she would always reach out. She was part of the program for Christmas Anonymous and she asked me to come volunteer one day. That was one of the first times in my life I had ever volunteered, so that was really a stepping stone for me.
What made you decide to continue your education? You had a solid foundation in accounting, so what prompted you to take the extra step?
I was originally planning to go into radiography and I realized it was not for me. I was terrified and all but went crying to my advisor asking ‘what do I do?’ They had brought up this accounting program that’s a part of the Path to Purple program. It allowed the opportunity for me to do two years at a technical college and to then also get a bachelor's degree. It was a big pivot and a big change going from a science to a math, so it was really impactful for me to be able to get a bachelor’s degree.
This article is part of a collection of interviews being published in partnership with Winona State University-Rochester.
Cover photo by Madison Conte