AICPA and CIMA logo

Bringing together

this way to CPA logo Start Here Go Places logo A.I.C.P.A. logo

Brenda Bahena

I was young when I went to community college the first time around, and I had no idea what I wanted to do.

My Bio
Brenda Bahena


Henderson State University
Arkadelphia, AR

Q: You earned your first degree almost ten years ago. What made you decide to go back to school for a second degree?
A: I was young when I went to community college the first time around, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I chose radiology because I had a friend who was studying it, and it seemed like something I could easily do that would pay well. I didn’t put much thought into whether I would enjoy the work (I didn’t!). I ended up leaving my radiology job after a few months and worked in a restaurant—first as a server, then as a manager—but after a while realized I wanted more. I’m a single mom of three, so I wanted a job that would allow me to spend time with my family and provide a good future for them.

I kept putting off going back to school because I felt like it would take forever to reach my goals. But then I watched a friend go back to school to become an RN. I saw how quickly the time flies by—before I knew it, she was done with school and making more money to support her family. That is what inspired me to finally just go for it, so I enrolled at the local community college and started taking classes.

Q: What other professions did you consider before deciding on accounting?
A: For a while I wanted to be an immigration lawyer—it’s so complicated getting citizenship. There are lots of things involved, and I wanted to help others figure out the process. Immigrants don’t have access to many lawyers, so I wanted to help people become legal citizens of this country and support them on their journey.

Q:Who influenced your career path?
A: I’m very close with my family, but I didn’t have many people to talk to about career options. I’m one of six siblings and the first to go to college. My parents are hard-working people—they emigrated from Mexico—and my father was 12 when he dropped out of school to work full-time. They’re proud of my achievements but they don’t really understand college.

Without parents influencing my school, I relied on teachers; they are so influential. Once I enrolled in accounting, my teacher was really important in helping me figure out my career path.

Q: What do you like about accounting?
A: When I took my first accounting class, I thought, “I get this, I like it, and I’m good at it!” I would go into class with a smile. I absolutely love accounting—I love resolving problems. I find joy in making a budget; it comes naturally to me. I could talk all day about budgets! I also like learning about accounting because I think, “How can I use what I’m learning to help a small business owner?” I’ve seen from my experience working in a restaurant they are often clueless about accounting. I want to be an advisor and help keep them on top of things, help them save money and run a more efficient business.

Q: What was the transition like from community college to where you are now?
A: I’m in my second semester at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. The transition itself hasn’t been as tough as I thought it would be. I like that I can take a variety of classes; they can offer more options because of the larger student population. I’m taking a music class, and I love it! I’m learning about culture and music and how they work together and influence the way you think. I’m also taking federal income tax that has nothing to do with financial accounting, and it’s hard—most people take it as a senior! But I enjoy the challenge.

Q: What are your plans after you graduate?
A: As soon as I finish college, I’m going to take the CPA Exam. I’m working for a bookstore right now—a job my teacher at my community college connected me to—and I want to stay at the bookstore and grow if I can.

I know I want to stay in Arkansas because that’s where my family is. I love that accounting is so flexible and versatile that there will be opportunities for me here and that I don’t have to move away for a good job. Eventually I’d like to start my own business helping people with their personal finances, but I’m still figuring out my long-term plan.

All Scholars