Courtney and Deb Baker do everything together — including graduating from the KU School of Business.
This spring, Courtney received her bachelor’s in marketing and management & leadership, while her mom, Deb, celebrated earning her Master of Accounting (MAcc) early. (She’s taking her last class for the program this summer.)
“My mom and I have been through a lot throughout the years, but it was awesome to be able to accomplish that and really solidify the fact that we got through all of this together,” Courtney said.
The Baker Girls
Single mom Deb and Courtney are so close that they’re frequently referred to as the Gilmore Girls, a nod to one of television’s most iconic mother-daughter duos.
“She’s the closest immediate family member I have, so we’ve pretty much done everything together,” Courtney said.
But they didn’t expect to go to school together. Then Deb, a longtime accountant working at Leawood, Kansas-based architecture and design firm Hoefer Wysocki, got an opportunity to start the working professional MAcc program at Edwards Campus after Courtney’s freshman year. Suddenly they were both KU business students.
“That first year, she taught me a lot about studying and writing papers and giving presentations because I didn’t have to give a ton of presentations with my undergrad, and I feel like she did, so times have changed,” Deb explained.
The two studied together and exchanged phone calls about how they did after tests.
“We were both really excited to be at KU and be studying together and talking about school and boring everybody around us,” Deb laughed.
Courtney started out following in her mom’s footsteps studying accounting, but a business development and sales internship after her sophomore year led her to change course. In addition to her degrees, she received a certificate in professional selling and moved to Austin for a sales position with Dell.
Meanwhile, Deb thrived in her MAcc program.
“It almost didn’t feel like work because it was just a different experience from my undergrad years when I was just trying to get through,” Deb said. “I really appreciated it this time and was really interested in all of the topics.”
The Bakers also didn’t plan to graduate together, Deb said. She didn’t know graduate students were allowed to walk down the Hill, or even what walking down the Hill meant. When a friend suggested it to them, Deb did some research and found that it would, in fact, be possible.
Mother and daughter waited with one of Deb’s classmates and Courtney’s sorority sisters before walking through the Memorial Campanile and down to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
“That was so cool. I get goosebumps when I tell people about it,” Deb said, adding, “I felt so fortunate that she didn’t mind me sharing that day with her.”
Now the two are preparing for what comes next. As Courtney starts her job with Dell, Deb is finishing her last class and will start studying for the CPA exam. She hopes to take the first of the four-part test this winter and will continue her career at Hoefer Wysocki, which she said was incredibly supportive of her time at KU.
Still, her daughter remains her biggest fan.
“I have a lot of respect for my mom,” Courtney said. “Not only did she go back to school, but when she starts talking about her classes, I can really see how passionate she is about what she does. I think school has probably even heightened that a little bit, so I’m excited to see what she does in the future.”