As A Controller, Ria Sorrell Is On The Money

Jan 8, 2013
  |  by Strayer Univers...

As controller of Union Station Kansas City, a former train station that’s now a cultural landmark, Ria Sorrell (BBA ’05) uses her knowledge of finance, law and technology to keep the operation on track. Her work ethic ensures that her career moves forward, too. Sorrell pursued higher education at the same time, while working during the day and being an involved wife and mother.

A native of the Chicago suburbs, Sorrell’s first job at a women’s clothing store before entering college introduced her to accounting. Though she enjoyed the financial side of retail, and loved working with thenburgeoning computers, she didn’t pursue accounting because she’d never considered it as a career.

“I’m very thorough, detailed and orderly,” she notes. “But I did not love numbers.” Instead, she studied chemical engineering and met her future husband as a freshman at Northwestern University. From there, she launched a career path that would inevitably lead back to numbers.


Sorrell married and moved with her Army husband to southern Virginia, and then overseas to Japan, taking jobs as an assistant budget analyst and other accounting positions as the family moved around. She earned her associate degree in computer information systems from Strayer University in 1994 while working full-time and raising three children.

When her husband enrolled in law school, she was inspired to do the same. But even though she had taken college courses continuously over 15 years, she’d never received her bachelor’s degree. The family was living in Michigan at the time, a state that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree to qualify for the bar exam, so Sorrell entered law school. But when she and her family moved to Missouri after her first year, she needed to finish her college degree and returned to Strayer University to do so. On taking undergraduate business classes and law classes simultaneously, she laughs, “I’m probably one of very few people who have done that.”


In 2007, Sorrell became controller for Union Station Kansas City, where her accounting, information technology and legal strengths have served her well. “As a controller, you’re overseeing so many different areas that you have to understand the big picture,” she says.

She relies on her business expertise to manage budget and accounting software operations, and applies her law degree when reviewing contracts. One of the first issues she tackled was to upgrade the accounting software. “They were relying heavily on Excel spreadsheets. But it’s imperative that organizations have the best software that they can afford. It frees up your time; it frees up your energy,” she says, noting that up-to-date software is especially important for nonprofits because staff must accurately track donated funds.

Union Station Kansas City has faced hard times in the past few years, with the doors nearly closing for good, but Sorrell is proud to have been part of the team that kept it open.

Today, her hectic class schedule is merely a memory, and her day job is running smoothly, but Sorrell’s work ethic hasn’t changed. “It takes a special type of person to be in finance and accounting. You have to have an eye for detail,” she explains. “But I think it’s a great field to be in because everyone always needs someone to keep track of their money.” 




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