Majors: Office Technology Information and Accounting
Erika Andersen left College of DuPage in 2001 to raise her fiance’s two children. After marrying and having two more, she stayed at home for 11 years taking care of them as well as her parents, who passed away in 2009 and 2010.
When her youngest child started first grade, Andersen decided to return to COD.
“I had no idea what to do, so I took Career and College Skills classes. Both were incredible,” she said. “Those classes and their extraordinary teachers gave me the courage to start a path for myself.”
That path included the Office Technology Information program, where she began working on her Administrative Assistant Associate in Applied Science degree. However, Andersen’s support system at home began to crumble, and only months into her first semester, she separated from her husband.
But she continued her studies, even after selling her house and settling into her role as a single mother.
“As my goal of finishing my degree seemed in reach, I started to panic a little,” she said. “I hadn’t had more than one short-term job in 12 years and I had no experience to pair with my new education once it was completed.”
Although Andersen was searching for administrative positions, she found those positions were being combined with accounting. She was running the small apartment building that her parents left her after they passed away, so Andersen was loosely familiar with some basic accounting principles.
After four months of searching and applying on the College of DuPage job network, Andersen found a job with a local CPA firm. She found it ironic that even in her interview while trying to sell herself, her employer ended up selling her on accounting.
“Within months of working as bookkeeper, I knew I had found my niche. The only way I could explain it was by saying, ‘This is how my brain works,’ and for the first time in a very long time I found something I really enjoyed and felt passionate about,” she said.
Andersen began taking accounting classes while finishing her administrative assistant degree. After some counsel from Accounting Professor Maureen McBeth, she began looking into the Accounting bachelor’s program at Benedictine University and decided to transfer there after finishing her associate’s degree, which she did in 2015, earning high honors and being named one of the College’s Outstanding Graduate finalists.
Andersen earned her bachelor’s degree and currently works at King & Moran CPA. She also passed the three-part, 12-hour IRS Enrolled Agents exam, which allows her to prepare tax returns on her own as well as represent anyone in IRS matters, which resulted in a promotion to head accountant.
Her son is now on his own journey at College of DuPage, one that Andersen hopes is as fulfilling as her own experience.
“Every single semester I had exceptional professors who taught me educational material and life skills: my college and career skills teachers, Professors Greene and Kowalkowski, who gave me the confidence to blaze a path for myself and set goals for my future while showing me how to succeed in school; my business teacher, Professor Elliman, who inspired business critical thinking and planted the accounting seed, even if I wasn’t yet receptive; my philosophy teacher, Professor Petersen, who encouraged thinking outside the box; my office and technology teachers, Professors Wendy Felder, Nancy Stanko and Kay Gerken, who opened my eyes to the expansive office environment and its extensive software programs; my speech teacher, Professor Mia Poston, who took my terrifying fear of public speaking and turned it into a strong confidence that helped me land an incredible job that ultimately changed my life; and my accounting teacher, Professor McBeth, who is always available and very helpful in helping me carve my path toward a career in accounting.”
She also appreciates how College of DuPage makes adult students feel comfortable.
“Being an adult student was really challenging, trying to balance not only school and work but also my children, who are a priority,” Andersen said. “There was sacrifice with mom in school and it took my time away, but I worked really hard to make sure they were still on track and doing well in school as well as outside activities. This usually meant sleep is limited for me, but for my three sons and especially my daughter, it meant a lot to me to have them see their mom tirelessly working toward an education to make life better for everyone. I am a firm believer that actions speak louder than words, and my hope is that it inspires them to do well educationally and work hard.
“One moment I couldn’t wait for was when I walked across the stage at graduation with my children in the audience watching me earn the degrees I worked so hard and sacrificed for. It will always be one of the most important moments in my life.”