Aerial view of Champlain College's campus in the fall.

Online Student Stories: Jenn

Champlain College Online

Jennifer Martin completed her bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Champlain in 2013. 

What was your motivation to go to college? Why Champlain?

Portrait of Champlain alumna Jennifer Martin

I knew I wanted to work in financial services when I was in high school. After taking a few accounting classes back then, it became clear to me finance was the right field and college was going to get me there.

While I didn’t live in Vermont at the time, a lot of my relatives lived in New England. My mom used to take my siblings and me to Burlington during these trips to see family each summer. When I got older and saw the area, I liked that it was such a quaint college town. There were a few colleges in the area that I saw advertising for and ended up researching. I then decided on Champlain.

I graduated from high school in 2010. I began my first semester at Champlain that fall. Since I front-loaded a lot of college courses in high school, I started at Champlain with 24 college credits before even beginning my first class.

Tell us about your experience at Champlain.

I ended up living on campus, but was a hybrid student – I took classes in person on campus while simultaneously taking online classes. I had an aggressive goal to finish my degree in three years. In order to get your CPA license, you have to complete 150 credits or the equivalent of 5 years. Since I enrolled in Champlain with 24 credits under my belt, I had the opportunity to accelerate my education. I sifted through the courses that felt appropriate for me to take online versus in person and finished my degree on a hybrid track.

Tell us about your experience with the Champlain community.

The culture of the campus is what brought me to Champlain. It was one of the best decisions I could have made for my education. My advisor was fantastic! Each year I would approach him with a new idea of where I wanted to take my career and he rolled with it. He would make the necessary calls on my behalf to help me find out what I needed to do. He never said, “Jenn, that’s not feasible.” He would jump through hoops to help me make the best possible decision for myself and my future.

Much like my advisor, all of my instructors were very personable. The accounting department especially had unique stories to share. My professors shed a lot of light on their personal career paths, highlighting the pros and cons of their experiences. I felt like I could speak with them without any reservations.

From a student perspective, I connected a lot with my peers. Since Champlain has intentionally small classes, I got really close with the other accounting students, not only while in school but also since graduation. Even today, I keep in touch with Champlain graduates. We became friends in school but have since created a strong network. I hear when others are moving from firm to firm or celebrating anniversaries at current employers. We make plans to catch-up routinely. I truly feel like I can reach out to any of them today to ask for professional help or just say hello.

What, in your opinion, makes Champlain unique?

Champlain does a great job, holistically, in preparing students to write and speak articulately. I credit Champlain for helping me develop strong interpersonal skills. Whether it’s writing an email or standing up to present in front of a group of people, I feel prepared to communicate with confidence. Champlain taught me how to think through how I speak with others, how much or little detail I should go into, and how to communicate successfully.

What do you do for work?

I’m a senior manager in the audit practice at KPMG US. One of my professors, Nicole Morris, used to work at KPMG prior to her time at Champlain and she was familiar with the employees working in the Burlington office. She was one of the references I added to my internship application. While I applied for the internship on my own, I had a lot of support from my references, like Nicole, and ended up interning there, which started my career 8 1/2 years ago.

How did your courses relate to your work?

From a technical perspective, I go back to what I learned at Champlain often. The accounting industry, and auditing specifically, is very prescribed. My courses prepared me to know where to find information and my classes taught me how to conduct research. I also think critically thanks to Champlain’s coaching of soft skills. I now take a step back, challenge what I see in front of me, and ask myself if the answer at hand is, in fact, the right answer. Everything I learned undoubtedly helped me in my work today.

What advice would you give someone considering going back to school at Champlain?

I would say this is the most worthwhile investment in your future. For all the reasons I’ve already stated and then some. I think when you make a list of pros and cons, the pros will greatly outweigh the cons. I don’t believe I would have the career I have today if not for the classes I took at Champlain, the tremendous support system I had there, and the connections I made. Without all of that, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your Champlain experience?

Champlain is very focused on not just your classes, but also where you want to take your career. Internships, on-the-job experiences, and shadowing opportunities are plentiful. Champlain is extremely focused on the real world and what happens after you leave the classroom. The way the Champlain community makes sure you have exposure to the real world prior to graduation is a game-changer.

Even in the online learning environment, there’s an emphasis on accountability and providing you with the resources you need. You don’t live in a silo while learning online. Champlain gives you plenty of ways to access your professors, communicate with classmates, and so on. At Champlain, online learning is as similar to in-person learning as possible. Truthfully, the online learning setting is what you make of it. But for me, I found that once I embraced online learning, I was able to gain as much benefit from the online platform as my in-person learning. I’m very grateful for my time both on campus and online at Champlain.

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