Student Spotlight: Kathleen Sullivan, Class of 2014, Kaplan University

Kathleen Sullivan is a 42-year-old wife and mother of two boys who lives in Massachusetts. Several years ago, she attended a community college, but did not complete her associate degree in marketing. After the death of her father in late 2009, Sullivan made the decision to return to school.

Having worked as a bookkeeper and tax preparer for almost 20 years, Sullivan enrolled at Kaplan University in Feb. 2010 to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Accounting with an emphasis in Auditing/Forensic Accountancy. She earned her degree in Jan. 2012 and is now pursuing her Master of Science in Accounting with an audit specialization through Kaplan as well. In addition, Sullivan is also actively involved in several student organizations, for which she holds leadership positions.

What made you choose to enroll in this school?

Sullivan: “Originally, I chose Kaplan because it offered a BS in Accounting, as opposed to a BS in Management with an Accounting or Finance emphasis.”

How did you decide on your field of study?

Sullivan: “I have been working in Accounting all of my adult life. I knew I would need to go back to work once my boys began school. I also knew that, without a degree, daycare may be unaffordable. So, here I am.”

What made you choose online education?

Sullivan: “With two small children and a mother who had a serious stroke several years ago, it would have been difficult for me to attend classes at a brick-and-mortar campus. While my mother’s care is the primary responsibility of my brother, I needed to be available to step in whenever needed. Also, with two young boys, I never know what is going to come up. Working around my family’s schedule is the only way I can manage my schoolwork. Online school simply made more sense.”

How are you able to balance your course load with your other obligations?

Sullivan: “I always say by not stopping. My life is nonstop, but I know that each and every aspect of it will be worth it in the end. Also, I am big with lists. Every week I look at what I need to do for the week, including class assignments, and write everything down. I try to do the same with my work in student organizations.”

Tell me about your online peer group.

Sullivan: “My experience is that a lot of students at Kaplan University have already worked in their fields of study. However, many are starting fresh. I find this fascinating, and more than a little brave. The students I have interacted with all seem dedicated to learning and getting the most they can out of the program. With classmates living in different parts of the country, think of all the networking I am doing far beyond my own geographic area!”

What do you hope to do with your degree upon completion of the program?

Sullivan: “I would love to work in Forensic Accounting. I plan on working on my CPA once I finish my MSA. Then I plan to get my CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) certification after I have gained the required work experience. Also, I have an interest in educating others. Both my parents were teachers, so I feel teaching is in my blood.

What advice/tips would you offer other students who may be considering online education?

Sullivan: “Get involved. It is about more than just attending classes online. If you can become involved in student life in any way, I’d recommend it. I say this because, prior to Kaplan, I was not one to join student organizations. Now, I see the enormous benefits of doing so. If someone would’ve said to me five years ago that I’d be speaking in front of groups of people, even online, I would have laughed at them. The whole online education experience has taught me so much about leadership. I’ve also made a lot of great friends.”

Follow Valerie Jones on Twitter @ValerieJonesCMN