Strength in numbers

Bethany Lares portrait
On the first day of Bethany Lares’ (BS Accountancy ’20, MACC ’22) master’s degree program, her mother died of breast cancer.

Lares didn’t know what to do. She met with a program administrator who walked her through some options: Stay, request time off, or take a formal leave of absence. As Lares weighed them, she could hear her mother’s voice urging her not to quit.

“I knew I couldn’t take the year off,” she says. “My mother would be very upset if I did that.” She moved forward, finding a support system in the Master of Accountancy and Data Analytics (MACC) program’s students and faculty, mainly clinical professors Janet Samuels and Gregory Dawson.

“All my professors knew,” Lares says. “Janet and Greg kept tabs on me to ensure I was doing well.”

Dawson describes Lares as “joy personified,” while Samuels says Lares was one of the top students in class despite the early obstacles she had to overcome, which included being raised at times by her older sister and being homeless at age 17 due to financial difficulties within her family. Lares’ good grades in high school earned her a full ride to ASU, and she took advantage of a program allowing students to move into their dorms early.

Lares tried several majors before taking an introductory accounting course with Clinical Assistant Professor David Shields, who was crucial in her decision to switch to an accounting major. When she graduated at age 20 and didn’t feel confident enough to begin a career, she enrolled in the two-quarter MACC program.

By the time she graduated from the MACC program in the spring of 2022, Lares had passed four CPA exams and accepted a job offer as an audit associate for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). But the job didn’t start until fall, and, in the meantime, Lares needed to work: She had supported herself since she was 17 and was now assisting her dad as he dealt with serious health issues.

Aware of Lares’ situation, Samuels spoke with Andy Call, the school director and Accountancy Professional Advisory Board Professor. Call offered Lares an adjunct professor job, teaching a summer auditing course. Lares gratefully accepted the offer, but isolation during the COVID-19 lockdown and all-virtual interaction had resurfaced an old fear of public speaking.

With help from a therapist, Lares uncovered self-confidence issues and realized her pattern of comparing herself to others was holding her back. After a month of self-reflection and support, she began teaching and enjoyed being in front of a classroom.

Today, Lares excels at PwC, where her seniors seek help with Alteryx, the data analytics program she learned in Samuels’ class. She’s also enjoying providing for herself financially and being able to take her sister and father out for a nice meal.

“It’s incredible. I feel so much less stressed,” Lares says. “I felt a little lost after starting my job, because that had always been my finish line. It was the light at the end of the tunnel, and what’s next? I worked hard to get here—now I need to enjoy it.”

Read about the recent innovations to the MACC program.