Student Stories

Hannah Erickson, Business Administration GraduateHannah Erickson

Business Administration graduate 
Licensed Tax Practitioner, Accounting Clerk

To Hannah Erickson, it all added up. A career in accounting, she realized, meant that she could build a profession around her favorite high school subject, math, while also factoring in some other important variables. "It's math-based, you have the opportunity to interact with people, and you can do it nearly anywhere," she says. "Being an accountant fit the bill."

Erickson's studies at COCC clicked instantly. The small classes, she says, made the learning experience very personal and accommodating. "It was my first round of financial accounting classes that affirmed I was on the right path," she adds. "The work was exactly what I'd hoped for, and I was good at it... I was able to get a first-hand look into what a career in accounting would look like."

"What impressed me about the Business Administration program was the availability and personable nature of the faculty and staff."

Now working for a Central Oregon accounting firm, Erickson is involved in tax preparation, bookkeeping, and general office administration. "What I love most about my career — and this job in particular — is the satisfaction I feel from turning a client's jumble of documents into a clean and organized product that is ready to be provided to the government or another professional firm. For the first time in my life, I don't dread going to work."

Erickson, who earned an Accounting Clerk and Bookkeeping certificate and an Associate of Science Business Transfer degree at COCC, along with licensed tax practitioner training from COCC's Continuing Education department, went on to receive her bachelor's degree in business administration from Oregon State University. She plans to become a certified public accountant.

Nancy Pance, Business Administration GraduateNancy Pance

Business Administration graduate 
Gym Owner and Co-Founder of Opportunity Oregon

Before she ran a thriving fitness center, and before she opened a recruitment firm, Nancy Pance found herself at a standstill with no way forward. She had served three years in prison for second-degree robbery (having turned herself in), and quickly discovered that earning a second chance wasn't going to come easily. Despite putting her best foot forward, no one would hire her.

So she decided to go back to school, enrolled in Business Administration at COCC, and buckled down to make her own way. "Because I faced barriers with employment, I made the decision that I was going to become self-employed," she says. "I knew that I would need the necessary skills and education to run my own business more effectively. I also wanted to run my own numbers, and not have to outsource for skills I could learn and do myself. It would make starting and running a business more cost-effective as well."

"I remember a series of moments with my accounting and marketing teachers where I kept getting more and more excited to start my own business."

After graduating, and in partnership with a family member, Pance purchased Anytime Fitness in Lebanon and soon grew its membership five-fold, creating an inclusive culture to appeal to more clients. Along the way, she became an active chamber of commerce member, expanded her staff, and built business connections. She then turned her entrepreneurial energy toward a new undertaking — one with special meaning — and opened the doors to Opportunity Oregon, a Springfield-based firm that helps ex-felons find work.

"It gives them an incentive to change their behavior ‘on the inside' in order for them to be considered for our program," she explains. "There are also benefits for the employers: tax credits for hiring an ex-felon, a federal bonding program that is free of charge, and having a qualified employee who's extra grateful for the second chance." Now collaborating with the Oregon Department of Corrections, Pance is shaping a sustainable and in-demand business that benefits everyone involved. "We already have a long list of employers who are ready to jump aboard."

Looking back at her time at COCC, Pance has a deep appreciation for the range of business fundamentals she learned — and the instructors who helped her find a new way forward. "There is so much gratitude that comes to mind when remembering the faculty of the Business Administration program," she says. "I had a series of moments with my accounting and marketing teachers where I kept getting more and more excited to start my own business. I honestly believe that they made such an impact, that they are part of my success." 

Pance earned an Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration with a specialization in accounting.