Serendipity led Maria Asencio to St. Thomas University for a teaching certificate. Her student experience led her back for an MBA.
"The faculty was always readily available," she said. "They knew my name, knew about me and showed interest. It wasn't like I was just a number. It was more personable, and I loved that."
Asencio is enrolled in the online Master of Business Administration program with a concentration in Accounting at St. Thomas University. She is on track to graduate in December 2020.
"I love that the online program is on my time," she said. "There are deadlines, but I am able to work my schedule around them. It's not only the convenience, but I like how you can interact with your professors.
"It's so important to learn from someone who is taking their time to get to know their students, challenging them and having them leave the course having learned something."
Asencio left an accounting job to teach while her son, Rene Ramirez (13), was younger. She needed to complete four courses to earn certification through the Florida Department of Education.
"They happened to have a summer program at St. Thomas University that offered those courses," she said. "With that certificate, I fell in love with how different it was to be a student at St. Thomas."
Asencio worked as an educator for six years before returning to accounting. She is now a tax intern at BDO USA in the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area.
"I had planned to go back to accounting all along," she said. "I loved that the MBA program at St. Thomas was accelerated and fully online. I don't like to wait on others, so I am very self-directed."
Asencio, who was born in Cuba and raised in Miami, began her career during her first stint at BDO USA as an assurance administrative assistant in 1998. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting from Florida International University eight years later.
"I saw that the guys who worked in assurance lived out of their suitcase," she said. "I wanted something more grounded. I need that office routine. I didn't want to go from client to client.
"I have always liked the assurance side of accounting and everything that has to do with auditing, but I especially like the tax and the rules because I am analytical."
Asencio started a master's degree program at FIU, but she decided to put it on hold to raise her son and teach. In January 2020, she came full circle by returning to BDO USA and St. Thomas University.
"Right now, I am an intern because it's more flexible for me," she said. "The company has extended the offer for a full-time position to me once I finish, so I can do the internship and complete my master's degree."
So far, ACC 541: Forensic Accounting is Asencio's favorite course in the online MBA program with a concentration in Accounting curriculum.
"I am very law-based and rule-based, so forensics and digging a little deeper for that discovery process is appealing to me," she said.
The flexibility of the online format also helps Asencio spend more time with her son, an avid baseball player. She believes that anyone who is disciplined and has a great work ethic can shine in STU's online MBA.
"The program is intense, but the MBA is definitely attainable," she said. "It's not a cookie-cutter program. Who doesn't want to be in a master's program that's challenging and beneficial and can be completed in a year's time?"
Once Asencio graduates from St. Thomas University, she looks forward to building her accounting career back up at a company she loves.
"I am very proud to be back at BDO," she said. "They refer to employees like myself as boomerang employees. This is home. I love the people and the culture. I am very much a people person.
"I hope to continue working with the company, climb the ladder and become a partner. Women partners are not the norm in the industry. Hopefully, I'll get there."
If earning a master's degree while working full time as a single mother is any indication, Asencio appears up to the task. She will soon be the first person in her immediate family to earn a graduate degree.
"My family and friends said, 'Are you sure you are going to be able to handle everything? You have a teenager on your hands, and it's not easy to be in your 40s and take this on,'" she said.
"But based on my personality, character and commitment, they knew that I was going to do this. They are very proud. Plus, this degree will definitely open up some opportunities for me."
If commencement goes on as planned in December 2020, Asencio will be there to walk the graduation stage with her son on hand to help her celebrate the big accomplishment.
"I wouldn't miss it," she said. "Most of my colleagues are in their 20s. Here and there, we have seasoned students like myself. I am so motivated to be a role model for my son and show him that it's never too late to pursue your dreams."
Learn more about STU's online MBA program with a concentration in Accounting.
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