2017 Best & Brightest: Laura Kohner, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

Laura Kohner

Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

“I am the kindergartener who accidentally shut down the Southeastern USPS system in March 2001.”

Fun fact about yourself: I have been bitten by a stingray.

Hometown: Wellington, Florida

High School: Suncoast Community High School-International Baccalaureate Program

Major: Accounting

Minor: International Studies

Favorite Business Courses: Evolution of American Capitalism, Business Law, Financial Accounting

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Bikes For Kidz, Inc. / Palm Beach County, FL / Co-Founder and Co-Director (with my twin sister, Megan) 

Co-developed and co-manage a 501(c)(3) that matches high school mentors with Title I elementary students in order to mentor, tutor, and reward students’ progress with bicycles and helmets:

  • Wrote grant requests and received several significant grants in excess of $30,000 from large corporate and community foundations in first three years of operation.
  • Gained leadership and organizational skills by running a small business – analyzing financial information, creating a budget, preparing tax filings – and recruiting/coordinating student mentors.
  • Surpassed our goal of awarding 1,000 bikes and helmets to disadvantaged children.

SMU CUBE / Dallas, TX / Engaged Learning Fellows and Student Managers   

Selected to be student manager, with my twin sister, Megan, of SMU’s undergraduate student entrepreneurship incubator:

  • Formed a committee of students from each undergraduate school to provide interdisciplinary cooperation.
  • Developed an adviser and mentor program with involved faculty and alumni to help students grow their business ideas.
  • Recognized, with my twin sister Laura, as Engaged Learning Fellows and received grants for our efforts.

George W. Bush Presidential Center / Dallas, TX / Presidential Leadership Scholars Program Interns (with twin sister, Megan) 

  • The two student interns selected to assist in the interview and selection process.
  • Coordinated with four Presidential Libraries/Centers to develop applicant database.

SMU Alumni Office / Dallas, TX / Hunt Leadership Scholars Alumni Liaisons (with twin sister, Megan) 

Upon the twentieth anniversary of the Hunt Leadership Scholar program, we worked with the Southern Methodist University Alumni Office to cultivate a mentor relationship between current Hunt Leadership Scholars and Hunt Leadership Scholar Alumni:

  • Create a foundation for networking among all Hunt Leadership Scholars, alumni to alumni and student to alumni.
  • Facilitate mentoring relationships between current Hunt Leadership Scholar students and Hunt Leadership Scholar alumni.

KPMG International Case Competition / Dallas, TX and Chicago, IL / SMU Representatives (with twin sister, Megan)

Won the November 2015 Campus Case Competition at Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business and competed in the Semifinal Competition as a team of four accounting majors solving a real-world business problem.

Woodrow Wilson High School National Academy of Finance / Dallas, TX / Mentors

Guided Dallas, TX high school student entrepreneurs in their journey through individual idea development, business plans, budgeting, presentations, and organization for a NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) contest.

PUBLICATIONS

Kohner, L., Kohner, M. (2016, January 10). Impacting our Community Through Next Gen Philanthropy. Palm Beach Daily NewsEstate Planning Supplement, pp.15, 28.

HONORS

  • Hunt Leadership Scholar
  • Cox BBA Scholar
  • Dedman Pre-Law Scholar
  • SMU Engaged Learning Fellow
  • Cox School of Business Ambassador
  • SMU-in-Taos Ambassador

STUDY ABROAD

  • La Universidad Nacional – Heredia, Costa Rica – Summer 2014
  • Intermediate and Conversational Spanish
  • History and Culture of Costa Rica
  • University College, Oxford University – Oxford, England – Summer 2015
  • International Political Economy
  • Comparative Empires
  • SMU-in-Bali – Ubud, Bali – Summer 2016
  • Balinese Culture
  • Arts in Bali

Where have you interned during your college career? 

  • George W. Bush Presidential Library and Center – Dallas, Texas,Presidential Leadership Scholars Program Intern
  • KPMG LLP – Dallas, Texas
  • Business Tax Services Intern

Describe your dream Job: My dream job would be as a top executive for a for-profit firm with a philanthropic foundation.

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I most admire Richard Branson, whom I consider an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. He runs very successful businesses through his philosophy “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to” and his sense of duty to the world around him through Virgin Unite, which provide resources to entrepreneurs who want to solve social issues in their community.

What did you enjoy most about majoring in a business-related field? By majoring in a business-related field, I most enjoyed learning that everything that everyone does needs a good business foundation, so there are many opportunities in numerous industries.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? The biggest lesson I have gained from studying business is that John Donne was right: “No man is an island, entire of self; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” In business, teamwork is essential for success. The ability to draw one solution from different perspectives and abilities is always stronger than that of a singular point of view.

Where would you like to work after graduation?

KPMG LLP – International Tax Associate

What are your long-term professional goals? My long-term professional goal is to become a tax partner in a large Global Accounting Firm.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? My sister and I agree on the same advice for students looking to major in a business field: become a leader in community activities or an organization of their choice, and use your involvement as an opportunity to effectively motivate others and work in teams toward a common goal. Maintain your contacts. Develop good listening skills. Take every opportunity to hone public speaking skills. Understand that effective communication is a vital skill in the business world.

“I knew I wanted to major in business when…my sister and I started our own 501(c)(3).  We quickly came to understand that in order to effectively and efficiently help the children in our community a solid foundation in business was an absolute necessity.”

“If I didn’t major in business, I would be…a Language Professional for the United Nations.”

 “Before I entered business school, I wish I had known…that interests outside of the business school and your comfort zone should be a priority, too. My sister Megan and I agree that it’s helpful to study abroad, take a language, or whatever interests you. According to Laozi, the founder of Taoism, “a scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.” Pursuing interests outside of your comfort zone helps you to expand yourself and better allows you to understand people from different backgrounds and cultures.”

What was the happiest moment of your life? The happiest moment in my life happened with my twin sister. We were walking into the library to work on a group project when from nowhere we heard “Bike twins, bike twins!” We then saw Frederic, one of our earliest Bikes For Kidz ‘graduates, running towards us with an armful of books. He excitedly told us about each of the tomes that he had picked out to read that week. Frederic — who just a few years prior wanted nothing to do with a book because they just could not hold his attention the way a video game could  — was now reading books of his volition. It was the most fulfilling and momentous feeling to know that we had a true and lasting impact on another person’s life, and that is a feeling that is just impossible to top.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? Both Megan and I are most proud of Bikes For Kidz, Inc. We developed, established, and currently advise a 501(c)(3) in which high school students from four high schools mentor and tutor Title I elementary students in ten Title I elementary schools.  We developed three curriculum choices emphasizing literacy, science, and sustainability through collaboration with principals, Florida Atlantic University College of Education, and Earthforce. The students meet goals and gain literacy skills while working toward a new bike and helmet. In the first three years, we researched and wrote grants for more than $30,000 and provided more than 1000 bikes to Title I kindergarten through second grade children. When we came to SMU, we continued to promote the value of mentorship in our new city.  We reached out to SMU alumni and established the CUBE Advisory Network. These established professionals held varied backgrounds including business, accounting, the arts, entrepreneurs, medicine, and engineering. These professionals volunteer their time and experienced advice to help SMU CUBE entrepreneurial students in their new enterprises. Connecting people to advise and help develop the next generation is a very rewarding way to spend one’s time.

What animal would you choose to represent your professional brand? Again, my twin sister and I would choose the same animal to serve as our respective brands: a Flamingo. Flamingos find great value in teamwork — it is part of their everyday lives. They complete necessary tasks such as fishing, preparing their habitat, and protecting their young in groups to achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness.  Flamingos have also developed sophisticated methods of communication — messages that can be quickly shared through the entire flock through non-verbal body language or vocalization through their distinct intonation and sounds. A flock of flamingos functions very much in sync, allowing the group to operate at its maximum potential. A flamingo’s eye-catching color, propensity to work together and ability to communicate well make it an easily recognizable and strong representative for my professional brand.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank Associate Dean Jim Bryan for selecting my sister and me as SMU Cox BBA Scholars, for being an enthusiastic advisor and advocate, and for providing enriching opportunities beginning in our junior year of high school and through every day of our undergraduate education.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? Both Megan and I would like to hear that our business school peers would make either of us their first choice as a professional contact, and that they would trust our expertise, dependability, and good judgment.

Favorite book: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Favorite movie: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Favorite musical performer: Ed Sheeran

Favorite vacation spot: Kangaroo Island, Australia

What are your hobbies? SCUBA Diving, Travelling, Skiing

What made Laura such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2017? 

“Laura Kohner and her sister Megan are both amazing, alike in many ways and yet each uniquely qualified to change the world for good in her own distinctive way. Although these identical twins have achieved much together, they are not interchangeable. Far from being the same person, each young woman brings her own unique approach to being endlessly positive and equally as brilliant as the other. In addition to making the accounting program at Cox a great place, Laura and Megan have both contributed so much to our university community. Together, they’ve done everything from running our university-wide entrepreneurship incubator (the CUBE) to starting a non-profit that provides bicycles to underprivileged children. Undoubtedly, the SMU Cox School of Business is a better place because both Laura and Megan Kohner chose to pursue their BBA degrees here.”

Jim Bryan
Associate Dean, BBA Programs
SMU, Cox School of Business

DON’T MISS: THE FULL HONOR ROLL: THE BEST & BRIGHTEST UNDERGRADUATE BUSINESS MAJORS OF 2017