Student Spotlight: Kathleen Ekeberg
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."
Ekeberg enrolled in the Math Algebra Refresher course and visited the Math Assistance Area in the Learning Commons. She also supplemented her studies with practice tests, other free math websites, a math placement test workshop, and anything else she could find. In the end, she studied college math about 10 to 15 hours per week for four consecutive weeks, took the math placement test and received a qualifying score required to enroll in her math class.
In spring 2014, Ekeberg finished her first certificate, the Clerical Accounting Certificate. And she knows this is just the beginning.
"I am working with Accounting Program Coordinator Maureen McBeth. She is a teacher, extremely knowledgeable, and a great listener," Ekeberg said. "She is helping me every step of the way with my course and career planning. This is essential and crucial for long-term success.
Her ultimately goal is to earn a bachelor's degree. She is interested in the 3+1 program with Benedictine University, which would allow her to complete her coursework on the COD campus. She then would like to become a CPA.
After that, no matter where her career takes her, Ekeberg knows she found the right career 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 has given 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."
2014 College of DuPage