Dominique Kurth first began moving toward a career back in 1998, when she met a certified public accountant while opening the East Anchorage location of the Alaska Club early on weekdays.
“He was impressed I was there every morning to open the club before 5 a.m. and asked if I wanted to work for him,” Kurth said of that CPA. “I said no. But I had that and two other jobs; I grew tired of splitting my sleeping hours, catching z’s whenever I had a few minutes. I was lucky enough that he asked me again in January 1999 and I went for it.”
She worked as the CPA’s receptionist, branched out into doing contract work in bookkeeping and accounting and then, in 2009, enrolled at UAA with the goal of pursuing an accounting degree.
“I did not think I would be back in school at this point in my life, but I am delighted to be here,” she said.
Next year, Kurth expects to receive UAA bachelor’s degrees in accounting and finance.
“I went back to school because I wanted to build more of a career around accounting, wanted to be able to support myself more fully without having the uncertainty of little contract clients,” she said.
Kurth had sought but did not obtain a degree at the University of Oregon about 20 years ago. When she resumed her studies, this time in UAA’s College of Business and Public Policy’s accounting program, she enrolled in just a couple of courses a semester since she was also working full time.
That strategy, however, created difficulties and frustrations.
“When working on a degree like accounting, what you do builds onto prior classes,” she said. “For me, some of these classes were several years ago. I was watching all these students go past me and graduate. I got frustrated and just decided to go for it. With the support of my family, I was able to do that.”
Donors helped remove financial obstacles as well, making it possible last year for Kurth to receive the BP scholarship and the Evergreen Business Capital Scholarship, designated for students admitted into UAA’s CBPP.
“Both were a surprise,” she said. “I had transitioned to full-time school/part-time work by then and was feeling the financial stress.”
Having fluency in working with numbers smoothed Kurth’s path to a certain extent, but mastering the skill of analyzing numbers was much more challenging.
“I’m not the strongest student,” she said. “For some it’s second nature, I have to work harder at it. You need to focus on what the client needs and understand the business they are in. The accounting and the math behind it are a supportive tool.”
Kurth has flourished at UAA. She’s earned a near-perfect grade-point average (3.94), volunteered as a tutor in the accounting lab and joined the accounting club, where she served as vice president for the 2014-2015 academic year. She is now serving the club in a new appointed position—board mentor.
“It is a rewarding experience where I was able to share my enthusiasm for accounting,” she said.
In May, she traveled to China with eight other students to explore economics, accounting and business. Each student had to have a research project mapped out. Kurth opted to examine the differences between American and Chinese people in their savings behavior.
“We learned about the economy of China, how the universities work,” she said. “We visited five cities in 15 days, took a river cruise on the Yangtze River, flew back from Shanghai.”
Kurth worked as an assurance intern this summer with BDO USA, an international accounting firm, in its Anchorage office.
“It was really fun, and I learned so much,” she said. “Internships are very important. They provide an opportunity to find out if the employer you are interested in will work for you, if it’s a good fit with the culture of the company.”
The company offered Kurth a job; she graduates in May and will begin working part time in July as she prepares to take five rigorous CPA exams.
“Once I started on this path, I’ve been set on it,” she said. “It’s changed my life, the direction of my future. But with the help of family, friends and peers, I’m going to graduate next spring.”
Donors are still helping Kurth reach her goals. This fall, she received the Accounting Club scholarship, Lenore and George Hedla scholarship and the KeyBank scholarship.
“As I near graduation, the bills for my education are a centerpiece of my financial planning,” she said. “To have most of this semester’s tuition paid by the generosity of the community because of what I have accomplished is humbling. The hard work is paying off, and at just the right time.”
Story courtesy of Tracy Kalytiak, UAA