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Jennifer Crunk

Jennifer Crunk had plenty of time to think as she commuted from Lincoln to Omaha.

She thought about rising gas prices and the young son and daughter at home who depended on her.

She thought about how, at some point in the 17 years since graduating from Doane College as a math major , all of her jobs had begun to blur.

Night auditor.

Office manager.

Accounts receivable clerk - they all felt like the same job, with no real future.

She remembered a program at Doane's Crete campus. Called the HELPS program (Higher Education for Life Planning Systems), it provides two semesters of free tuition to graduates who have gone into the workplace and not been able to flourish.

In 2007, Jennifer made the life-changing decision to go back to school for a degree in accounting and eventually a career as a Certified Public Accountant. She chose Doane for its supportive atmosphere and four-year graduation guarantee .

After meeting with an adviser, Jennifer found herself an undergraduate at age 39.

She does not regret the decision.

"The first time around, I was more of a social creature. I was taking classes to get done. This time I have an actual goal."

Professors support her endeavor.

"Accounting is a difficult field and a difficult major, and Jennifer has performed at a very high level in all of her classes," said Kathy Springer, associate professor of accounting.

Jennifer's grade point average last semester was a solid 3.5. At a recent Student Honors Convocation, she received a prestigious accounting award.

That's not to say it's easy.

Her days as a single mother and college student are orchestrated. The children eat breakfast at school. Jennifer takes classes in the morning, begins her part-time job at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln by noon, and spends her evening helping her children complete homework before tackling her own. She hopes her children understand the reward of sacrifices made when they see her complete her major in May of 2011.

The age difference between Jennifer and her classmates hasn't been as big of a deal as she thought.

"I do realize most of the kids here now weren't even born when I was at school," she said. "But I've only been mistaken for a teacher once or twice."

Information on the HELPS program:

Higher Education Life Planning Systems (HELPS) is a program designed for graduates of Doane's Crete campus who wish to return to the Crete campus to seek further education that prepares them for better career opportunities. Candidates must demonstrate that by returning for a specific progression of courses, career advancement is possible.

HELPS participants must be full-time students. They can earn tuition-free undergraduate credit during two academic terms and an interterm (summer excluded.) If their program exceeds two academic terms, they must pay for the additional credit hours required.

Graduates must have completed their Doane degree at least two years prior to eligibility. An application for admission and detailed guidelines are available from the Vice President for Admission.

Information on Doane's Accounting Major:

Doane's Accounting Major prepares students for a variety of careers in business, both in and out of the accounting field.  Accounting students gain experience in understanding, analyzing, reporting, and interpreting accounting information as a decision-making tool in various organizational structures.  The accounting major also prepares students for further study at the graduate level.

Academic advisers at Doane work closely with students who are considering certification options.  Most of Doane's accounting majors take the CPA Exam upon graduation (with 150 hours) after four years, and begin their careers immediately.  However, should a student choose to pursue a master's degree, Doane's program also prepares students to compete very successfully in graduate school.

Students can participate in month-long or semester-long internships, gaining hands-on work experience for college credit.  Accounting majors are required to have at least one internship as part of their academic experience, and many have more than one.  Accounting students have held internships at such businesses and organizations as (listed alphabetically):

    * Aquila

    * Black & Veatch

    * Bland & Associates

    * Cargill

    * Kennedy & Coe

    * KPMG

    * Lincoln Police Department (a student interested in forensic accounting)

    * McGladrey & Pullen

    * Moser Accounting

    * Nebraska Department of Insurance

    * Panama Canal Authority

    * Pinnacle Bank

    * Prochaska Tax Service

    * UNL (accounting services)

    * Various financial institutions in Crete, Lincoln, Omaha, and the surrounding areas