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Winter Commencement Celebrates First Adult Undergrad Accounting Class

Winter Commencement Celebrates First Adult Undergrad Accounting Class

More than 300 students graduated from Bethel's College of Arts & Sciences, College of Adult & Professional Studies, and Graduate School on December 15.

Winter commencement marked an important milestone for more than 300 students, including the College of Adult & Professional Studies’ inaugural class of B.S. in Accounting graduates. In its second year, the newest addition to Bethel’s adult undergraduate business programs has attracted a mix of students from diverse personal and professional backgrounds.

Among them is Juan Sanchez Gota CAPS’17, who came to the United States with a mechanical engineering degree and the dream of building a career in the information technology field. But because he spoke little English, he found himself waiting tables and cleaning cars in Miami for $5 an hour. “It was tough,” he says. “I started from zero. But this is a wonderful country. The doors are open for you to build a life here.”

Fourteen years and two advanced degrees later, Sanchez Gota works as a data analyst at Wells Fargo. While most of his classmates enrolled in the program to advance careers in finance, Sanchez Gota came to cultivate fluency in business language and better understand the needs of his accounting colleagues.

“This program provides both the accounting knowledge and skills students need to enter the field of accounting, but it also provides a well-rounded business degree,” says Program Director Molly Wickam. “They build skills in writing, presenting, problem-solving, and teamwork, just to name a few.”

One of Sanchez Gota’s classmates, McKenna Hoff, enrolled to gain the experience and credentials she needs to become a certified public accountant. She landed a corporate accounting internship at TCF Bank, where she handles credit reporting, treasury, fixed assets, and month- and quarter-end processes. “Bethel’s accounting program was very efficient and effective,” Hoff says. “I was able to work full time while I went to school, enabling me to pay off tuition, gain work experience, and earn a degree at the same time.”

While both Hoff and Sanchez Gota left with tools to succeed professionally, they also gained something they never expected—a community. “You really get to know the people you’re in class with, and that close-knit group of people has been so nice,” Hoff says. “You’re going through the journey together, and you encourage each other to keep going even when the material is extremely challenging.”

That was especially true for Sanchez Gota, a first-generation immigrant. His entire family is still in Venezuela, which is engulfed in political and economic turmoil. He’s lost several friends to malnutrition, and he hasn’t seen his parents in years. The emotional, spiritual, and even financial support he received from his classmates meant the world to him.

“If I had the chance to do it again, I would,” he says. “They’re not just teaching you accounting—they’re teaching you leadership, ethics, how to connect with other people. Those things were hard for me before.”  

Now, Sanchez Gota runs a small technology company that supports Hispanic businesses in the metro area. He plans to return to school to pursue a master’s degree, which he hopes will propel him upward in the information technology field—maybe to places like Google or Microsoft. With the B.S. in Accounting as his third advanced degree, Sanchez Gota believes the sky’s the limit.

“Anything is possible here,” he says. “You just have to be persistent, set goals, and have the will to do it.”

Learn more about Bethel’s adult undergrad programs.