Student Spotlight: Kathleen Ekeberg

Kathleen Ekeberg

Kathleen Ekeberg
Major: Accounting

Kathleen Ekeberg knew for 30 years that she wanted a career in accounting. She just thought it was unattainable.

“I’ve been a clerical support person for most of my adult life. It’s a good job, but it's not where my heart is,” she said. “I’ve come to realize that you shouldn’t put limits on yourself.”

Ekeberg knew College of DuPage was well-known for its strong Accounting program. When she began to investigate returning to school, she discovered most of her credits from another college were transferable, which saved her time and money.

But during her first class, Financial Accounting, she spent four weeks wondering if she had made the right decision.

“Right up until the first exam, I was struggling internally,” she said. “I thought, ‘Can I get my tuition back?’ or ‘The concepts are too hard. I’ll never understand an expense – is it a debit or a credit?’ Every class lecture, our teacher, Terry Bishop, would remind us to have patience in the learning process. He promised us that if we really applied ourselves and conscientiously did the homework, we would eventually get it. It was frustrating because sometimes I would re-read a page five times before I understood it, or not understand a concept until after I did the homework or took a quiz.

“In Terry Bishop’s class, every student was valued and respected. I never felt afraid to ask questions – and I asked a lot – or make mistakes. His teaching methods and course syllabus were my road map. I learned that it’s OK to spend as much time as needed to understand concepts, even if you think you’re the slowest learner in class. Then test your knowledge and do your very best on the exams.”

Every week, she persisted with her studies, often emailing questions to her teacher. Then she began having “I get it!” moments, and soon she was enjoying accounting.

“Accounting is cumulative, and each concept builds off of the previous concept,” she said. “My final grade in this class was an ‘A,’ and I felt empowered to continue my education. Fear was the major factor that kept me from wanting to take this class, but it taught me accounting rules, logical thinking, problem solving, and math skills. The homework helped me prepare for the required math placement test.”

Due to her placement scores, she needed to take three out of four developmental math classes. However, she was able to test out of one and passed the other two on her first try. But it wasn’t easy.

“The math faculty was very helpful and so were all of the tutors in the Learning Commons and Math Assistance Center. I worked extremely hard – like you would at a full time job! – while utilizing all the resources the school has to offer, especially tutoring. It was a huge time commitment but well worth it.”

Helping her with college expenses were several COD Foundation scholarships, including the Returning Adult scholarship and the Needs-Based Scholarship.

In spring 2014, Ekeberg finished her first certificate, the Clerical Accounting Certificate. Since then she has worked several jobs, including as an accounts receivable clerk and a seasonal tax preparer. She currently works part-time as a bookkeeper for a large tax service provider.

And this was just the beginning. Ekeberg worked Accounting Program Coordinator Maureen McBeth on mapping out educational and career goals in order to ensure long-term success. In 2016, she earned both an Associate in Arts and Associate in General Studies, graduating with high honors. She plans to pursue her bachelor’s degree in accounting and become a CPA.

From there, no matter where her career takes her, Ekeberg knows she found the right path that will make her happy.

“I am most excited about doing something I love while earning a paycheck,” she said. “With more education comes more advancement and responsibility – and a bigger income! My husband and I have always wanted to travel, and now I will be able to help us do this.

“For now, I want to love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like work. I want to be working in my career and be able to say to myself, ‘Wait, am I seriously “working” right now?’ One of my favorite quotes is, ‘You don’t have to put an age limit on your dreams.’

“COD’s Accounting program is taught by CPAs with real-world experience. You get a university-quality education for a very affordable tuition. My Financial Accounting class gave me a focus and self-confidence in my abilities so I can continue my education. I’m now able to realize a 30-year career goal that I thought was unreachable.”

More about the Accounting program