UM-DeSoto Student Lands Unique FBI Internship
Works with forensic accountants and special agents to solve crime
SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – It isn’t every day that accountancy students are able to use their expertise to solve crime. Madison Cleveland was able to do just that while interning with the FBI over the summer.
Cleveland, a senior accountancy major, attends classes at the University of Mississippi at DeSoto Center – Southaven. She began her 10-week internship at the bureau’s Memphis office in June.
“I worked as part of the Honors Internship Program in the criminal investigative division of the FBI,” said Cleveland, a Hernando native. “As a member of the investigative team, I worked with forensic accountants and special agents to help investigate complex financial crime.”
She conducted forensic financial analysis of business and personal records and accompanied case agents to various hearings and interviews. She was also able to work with administrators including the financial manager and auditor.
When Cleveland first walked into the FBI office, she wasn’t sure what to expect.
“I had no idea what team I would be placed on or what I would be doing, so I was really surprised every day by the opportunities that presented themselves,” she said. “Surprisingly enough, the most challenging part was remembering the steps to using all of the computer applications. At the beginning, the financial analysis was difficult, but they gave me guidance so I was able to catch on pretty quickly.”
Joel Freund, FBI supervisory special agent, oversaw Cleveland’s internship. He made it a point to expose her to as many different aspects of the job as possible.
“Madison was able to experience accounting, but she also spent time working with evidence, she was able to go to the range, and she attended trials,” Freund said. “I wanted her to be able to do everything she could possibly do and I wanted the experience to be exciting.”
Cleveland first learned of the Honors Internship Program from Lynn Kugele, instructional assistant professor of finance at UM-DeSoto. Kugele encouraged Cleveland to apply, even though the application deadline was very short.
“Madison was such a great candidate for an FBI internship,” Kugele said. “She’s an accounting major, an outstanding student and a young woman of such excellent character, so this seemed like an exceptional opportunity to explore her interest in a career in forensic accounting at a very high level – at the FBI.”
Freund said that the Honors Internship Program offers a multitude of opportunities for students in various majors. The bureau is currently seeking internship applicants with diverse backgrounds. The deadline for their 2019 summer internship cycle is Oct. 14.
“If they have an interest in the FBI, then this is the first most logical step,” he said. “We try to give everyone a shot. There are also opportunities at other field offices including FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. and Quantico.”
Cleveland prepared for her interview with help from Kacy Dixon, coordinator of student services at the DeSoto Center. The process was long, but Cleveland said it was well worth the time and effort. In fact, she enjoyed her internship so much that she will be working with the FBI again this summer. Freund said he looks forward to working with her again.
Cleveland deeply encourages her fellow students to take advantage of internship opportunities that come their way. She advises students to contact companies that they are interested in, even if they don’t have an internship posted.
“Internships are designed to give you a test run,” she said. “It helps you answer the questions: Do I like this company? Can I see myself working with this company long term? Am I in an industry or position that I will enjoy? It also gives the company the opportunity to see how you work. Chances are, if you and the company both feel that you’re a good fit, you will get a job offer after school. If this isn’t the case then at least you have experience on your resume which increases your odds of finding another internship or your next job.”
After graduation, Cleveland plans to pursue a master’s degree in accounting and become a certified public accountant. She then hopes to permanently join the FBI as a forensic accountant.
“Not only did working with the FBI give me physical experience to document on my resume, but it has also given me an in-depth understanding of many things I will need in a career,” she said. “It gives me talking points in interviews and the ability to think through problems critically based on real world experience. It also allowed me to have inside connections at some of the leading corporations in Memphis that I can call on in the future.”