A University of Mississippi junior majoring in international studies, German and accountancy has landed a summer internship with one of the Big Four public accounting firms, but this is just another amazing accomplishment in her stellar career.
Martina Cotelo was born in Uruguay, the granddaughter of a German Jew who had emigrated there to escape Nazi persecution. She was a fifth-grader when the family moved to Oxford in 2001.
After graduating from Oxford High School, she entered Ole Miss to take advantage of opportunities provided by the Croft Institute for International Studies and Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.
She holds a Barksdale Scholarship, and last year, she was one of two Honors College students to receive a Barksdale Award. The $5,000 awards were established to encourage students to test themselves in environments that don’t have the built-in safeties of a classroom, teaching lab or library. She used the funds to travel to Uruguay last summer to continue research on her grandmother’s autobiography, which she had begun sharing in letters to her granddaughter before her death more than three years ago.
Cotelo’s internship this summer, from mid-June through mid-August, takes her to the Ernst & Young company’s Times Square office in New York. She pursued the opportunity on her own after receiving a tip from the accountancy school about the annual Discovery Ernst & Young Conference.
“I received an email about the conference that Ernst & Young has for underrepresented minorities, and once I was selected for the conference, the recruiter asked me if I was interested in interning with their Horizon Program. I went to interview for the internship in December, and I got a call-back in January.
The internship program rotates the students throughout the different sections of the company and provides a broad overview of how it operates.
“I hope to see how the material we learn in class is put to use in the office and how everything is applied,” she said.
Mark Wilder, dean of the School of Accountancy, says he is not surprised at Cotelo’s latest accomplishment.
“Martina is an outstanding student,” he said. “I know that she was a superb representative for Ole Miss in the Discover Ernst and Young Diversity Leadership Conference, and I’m certain she will excel in their Horizon Program as well.”
In her quest to learn more about her ancestors, Cotelo plans to continue her research by studying in Potsdam, Germany during the 2013 spring semester. In preparation, she is enrolled in an independent studies class aimed at deciphering more of the letters and contextualizing the material.
“When I arrived in Uruguay last summer, I was shocked to find seven boxes my grandmother had packed with documents and letters written mostly in German, some in Spanish, and there was a bit of Hebrew thrown in, as well. I tried to tackle the most legible letters and the stories she left about her last months in Berlin. After that, I organized over 700 letters, by dates, recipients and senders. I found out a lot about her family that did not flee to Uruguay.
“The research is incredibly broad, but I will choose one angle of it for my senior thesis for Croft and Honors.”
Cotelo says she has not been disappointed in her college choice.
“I have had incredible professors and countless opportunities to pursue what interests me. The accounting school, Croft and the Honors College constantly support my ideas and goals. There has never been a moment in my three years when I felt like I didn’t have support from the faculty and staff. It has been truly incredible.”
As Cotelo continues her Ole Miss career, those who know her best expect her record of excellence to continue.
“Martina is an absolutely amazing student,” said Kees Gispen, executive director of the Croft Institute. “In addition to combining challenging majors like accountancy, international studies and German, she will be adding a fourth dimension: a senior thesis on a topic central to ethics in the modern world, based on difficult-to-decipher German language sources and holding deep personal meaning for her and her family. She reflects today’s globalized world in a way that bodes well for the future. We haven’t seen or heard the last of Martina Cotelo yet.”
Wilder concurred, saying, “Martina has taken full advantage of the opportunities Ole Miss affords top students. She is part of a newly created double degree program partnership between Croft and the School of Accountancy, while also excelling as a student in the Honors College. She will have countless opportunities in the professional world. We are extremely proud of Martina and her accomplishments.”
Cotelo’s parents are Enrique and Irene Cotelo, UM faculty members in the Department of Modern Languages.