When December 2021 graduate Veronica Castaneda-Alferez arrived at Newman University for her undergraduate studies in accounting, she had been out of school since 2002, when she received her associate degree from Butler Community College.
She then got married and became a mom, putting her education on hold.
So when Castaneda-Alferez came to Newman a few years ago to complete her bachelor’s degree, she was “so nervous, I wanted to puke.”
Re-entering the classroom
Her first class that first day on campus was with Associate Professor of Management Larry Straub, who put her right at ease.
“He got up on a chair to give his presentation, and he just blew my mind,” Castaneda-Alferez recalled. “I forgot about the nervousness, and I forgot that I was an older student.”
Even though Straub holds a doctorate, Castaneda-Alferez remembered that he asked his students just to call him Larry. This amazed her, as she felt that titles were a big deal to professionals.
“But here, the titles didn’t matter. So that first day, I left with confidence,” Castaneda-Alferez said.
On the day she graduated from Newman with her degree in accounting, she said, “Today, I leave not only with confidence, but with a purpose. I know what my vocation is. And I know that I also have a mission.”
Transforming society, one client at a time
That mission is to serve her clients at the tax preparation business she owns in Wichita, Castaneda Investments LLC — a mission that’s aided by her Newman experience.
“When I decided to come back to school, I received a lot of criticism,” Castaneda-Alferez said. “But it was a need. I like to learn, and I decided that if I could take three things from each class — even if I got a D in it — and either apply them to my life or my business, then I’m well-served. And I’ve taken more than three things from each class and have helped a lot of my clients with the things I have learned.”
Castaneda-Alferez’s time at Newman wasn’t easy — she had gone through a divorce, was raising her daughter and working on top of her studies — but earning her bachelor’s degree was worth every hurdle she faced.
She also had great professors who inspired her along the way, including accounting professor Patrick Nance and Matthew Umbarger, assistant professor of theology for the School of Catholic Studies, whose Introduction to the Old Testament course impacted her spiritually.
Castaneda-Alferez’s advice to other potential nontraditional students is inspired by her own experience:
“Follow your dreams. Do what you want. If that’s what your gut is telling you that you need to do, do it. Life is too short, and it’s never too late.”
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