Editor’s Note — This is part of a Women’s History Month series featuring women who make a positive impact on the campus community through their work as office/service employees. The Women of Service series is organized by the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women. Stories will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in Nebraska Today through March 30.
Katharina Stokes’ ability to balance the books while keeping an eye on future funding opportunities is helping the Center on Children, Families and the Law further its mission.
Stokes has served as the center’s business manager since July 2018. She manages the center’s business and fiscal matters, which include approximately 100 grant- and contract-funded accounts. She also coordinates the center’s extensive portfolio of grant applications and provides comprehensive financial reports for federal-, state- and private foundation-funded accounts.
When she’s not focused on mountainous stacks of financial paperwork and endless spreadsheets, Stokes is the go-to source for helping the center’s 80-plus faculty, staff and student workers with funding and expense-related questions.
“It is not an overstatement to say that Katharina’s fiscal acumen in the office directly empowers CCFL to help the helpers out in the field to improve the lives of countless children and families,” said Christine Henningsen, associate director of the center. “She has succeeded and surpassed all expectations within this challenging office job — we are confident she must possess superhuman abilities.”
Kelli Hauptman, director of the center’s Court Improvement Project, said Stokes’ work is “essential.”
“Katharina is unassuming, super smart and almost never wrong on anything she says — yet, she never seeks credit for her work,” Hauptman said. “I feel completely assured having our finances in her hands. She is so very essential to what we do.”
The Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women reached out to get to know Stokes and learn more about her dedication to students, faculty and staff at Nebraska U. Her interview follows.
Tell us more about yourself.
I grew up on a family farm near Ulysses, Nebraska. I have a four-year accounting degree and certified public accountant license, and have been working in nonprofit accounting for the last 15 years. My husband is a veteran, having served 20 years in submarines for the U.S. Navy. We have triplets — two girls and a boy — who are 9 years old. The girls both have autism, which was diagnosed when they were 3 years old.
What do you look forward to when you come to work?
At the Center on Children, Families and the Law, our mission is helping the helpers to improve systems and outcomes for children and families. So, I look forward to collaborating with colleagues and assisting them with projects so we can fulfill that mission, whether that be developing a budget or explaining the financial picture of a project.
What is your favorite memory at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln?
We have some fun traditions at CCFL but my favorite is our Soup-Off, where we compete for the best soup recipe. We even bring in people from across the university to serve as judges. The last time it was held was 2019 (due to COVID-19), but I hope we can continue this tradition soon.
What is your life like outside of work?
With triplets, my life outside of work seems like organized chaos — lots of kids activities like dance, karate and music lessons. I also spend my time advocating to help my daughters. There is constant communication with their teachers and therapists to help get them the support they need. For my own downtime, I enjoy going to my book club, gardening and traveling with my family.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I have traveled extensively outside the United States, first as an exchange student in college, studying in the Netherlands, then I spent a year doing mission work for my church in Bulgaria. And before I came to the university, I worked for an international relief organization doing internal audits and financial training for offices in Uganda, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Bolivia and Ecuador.
How has being an exchange student benefited your career path?
As an exchange student I was able to take classes focused on international business and my classmates and floormates were all from different countries throughout Europe. It helped me see the wide variety of perspectives and cultures that people have and assisted me with my self-confidence, communication, and teamwork skills throughout my career.
Why was it important to take on mission work? Do you hope to return to that sort of work later in life?
I had the financial skills, training ability and international experience to do the mission work and I felt it was the right opportunity where I could help people in need. I do hope to return as a volunteer someday with my kids, when they are older, because I think it would teach them important life lessons and values.
Who has inspired you the most?
My parents. Dad was a farmer, and mom was a high school teacher. They both loved what they did and lived a simple, fulfilling life.