(Photo courtesy of Jamie Warren)
Blue Ridge Community College students who study accounting have a new mentor on campus, Ashley Larach. Larach, who is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and is finishing a Master’s in Accounting at Western Governors University, joined the Blue Ridge faculty in January 2021. Larach brings over 13 years of professional experience in accounting to the classroom.
After growing up in Transylvania and Henderson Counties, Larach has long term connections to the community, and says of teaching at Blue Ridge, “I feel like this is home.”
Larach was a Blue Ridge Community College student herself, attending classes as a Career and College Promise student (CCP) from West Henderson High School her senior year and as a first year college student. Larach worked in the mortgage industry and as a receptionist for a small public accounting firm before she “finally decided what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Larach earned her BSBA from UNC Pembroke in Business Management and began her career trajectory in accounting. Larach lives with her husband Phillip in Transylvania county.
Larach said, “I am very proud to be at Blue Ridge and to continue to grow our already stellar accounting program. I believe I am very relatable to our students because I did not have the ‘typical’ post-secondary education experience of attending a four-year college directly after graduating high school. I was an adult learner, working full time and taking college courses part time, like so many Blue Ridge students, and I am so happy that they look to me as a mentor.”
Accounting is a field with room for growth. Blue Ridge offers certificates and degree programs in accounting which open the door to family wage jobs in the area.
Students who have earned an associate’s degree from Blue Ridge in accounting can gain employment in an entry-level position such as an accounts payable clerk, an accounts receivable clerk, a payroll clerk, or a bookkeeper for small business.
Blue Ridge students can build on their associate’s degree by transferring to a four-year university or college.
For example, “Blue Ridge and UNC-Asheville signed an articulation agreement for students earning an associate’s degree in Accounting and Business Administration to transfer to UNC Asheville to earn their bachelor’s degree in Management or Accountancy. This new articulation agreement will make students’ transfer to UNC-Asheville much smoother” Larach said.
Blue Ridge also maintains articulation agreements specific to its Associate in Applied Science Accounting and Finance degree with Western Carolina University, Fayetteville State University, Mars Hill University, Gardner-Webb University, and Lees-McRae College.
Blue Ridge graduates who transfer to a university and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting can work as a staff accountant, a controller with a company, an auditor, or work in governmental or not-for-profit agencies.
Becoming a CPA in North Carolina requires a related four-year degree plus 30 additional credit hours in accounting, in addition to supervised experience. With the CPA license, accountants can own their own firm and practice in public accounting, or serve as a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in a business or governmental unit or a not-for-profit.
Larach, who has made her way through each of these steps, said, “our goal is for students to graduate and transfer to a four-year college or to enter the workforce. In the accounting program, students are not only able to earn certificates or an associate’s degree but also earn credentials to add to their resumes such as Microsoft Office Specialist Certification and the Quickbooks Online Certified User. I am really excited to see students succeed in their careers and here in our community.”
Students who are worried about a challenging course of study are in good hands with Larach, who said, “I try to motivate students by reminding them that this is ‘real life,’ that accounting relates to every single business that they could ever possibly want to work, because everyone needs an accountant.”
Larach said, “Accounting is a science, an art, and a language, with a little bit of math thrown in, so I really try to motivate students to see the big picture and how accounting is used in any sort of business that they may be interested in.”
Community members interested in curriculum or continuing-education accounting courses may find more information on the Blue Ridge Community College website, www.blueridge.edu, or by calling 828 883-2520.