Student Story

First-generation Student Zuany Fernanda Sandoval ’25 Launches Career in Nonprofit Accounting

Zuany Sandoval

“I learn best in a small-class setting, and I like being able to interact with my professors and receive help from them.”

Accounting major Zuany Fernanda Sandoval ’25 recently received a job offer from the accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen LLP. She spoke with us about her internship experience, her passion for business, and the importance of mentorship and community.

When Accounting major Zuany Fernanda Sandoval ’25 received an advance job offer from CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CLA), it was a milestone for her and her family. “I was surprised and happy. As a first-generation college student, my parents are ecstatic.” Sandoval is also the first person from her immediate Guatemalan family to graduate from high school. “For my first full-time job, I’ve landed my dream job. I’m thrilled to be able to make a living and receive good benefits immediately upon graduation.”

Nonprofit Accounting at a Big Firm

“CliftonLarsonAllen is a big name and a big accounting firm,” Sandoval explains. “They specialize in many different areas, including audit, nonprofit, construction, and healthcare, with locations throughout the United States.”

Although she will not begin her formal position at CLA’s Quincy office until the fall of 2025, the firm offered her the job upon completing her summer 2023 internship. Before her Simmons graduation, Sandoval will intern for CLA a second time, refining her skills in nonprofit accounting.

A typical week on the job starts with a team meeting. “In a nonprofit capacity, I work with a manager and an assigned small group to discuss new and ongoing projects and their respective deadlines,” says Sandoval. “Throughout the week, I complete nonprofit tax-related paperwork — e.g., names of people who have contributed to the organization, what they contributed, etc. — and track my work hours. It is normal for me to juggle several projects at any given time.”

CLA takes on clients from all over the country. Occasionally, Sandoval may have to travel to specific organizations for audits, but the firm will cover her travel expenses. “CLA also has great benefits. If I decide to pursue my CPA, they offer classes and bonuses to support me, and they will provide partial tuition remission for a master’s degree.”

After interning at CLA last summer, Sandoval gained some insight into their culture. Although she was nervous at first, her senior colleagues soon put her at ease with their warmth and collegiality. “I was not alone because people were always there to talk with me and answer my questions. They made me feel very welcome, and would even leave notes saying that I’m doing a good job, or something else equally encouraging. . . It was nice to have this personal touch since it is a very big place with hundreds of employees,” she reflects.

Accounting is a great fit for Sandoval, as she has always excelled in math. While attending high school at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury, she participated in OneGoal. “With this outreach program, mentors from the community introduce you to fields and career paths that you may want to pursue in college,” says Sandoval. “We had a special guest who discussed his career in accounting. This caught my attention because I wanted to do something related to business. I realized that if you have a knack for numbers then you will succeed in business — whether you wish to open a restaurant or achieve another concrete goal.”

Sandoval also likes the balance of independent and team-based work. “You speak to people a lot but it’s focused on your own work. I’m a people person, but I’m also adept at working independently.”

Mentorship and Community at Simmons

Sandoval applied to Simmons as a result of another youth mentoring outreach program under the auspices of the Boston Public Health Commission, which guides high school students as they transition to college. “My program mentor advised me to apply to not just ‘safety schools,’ but schools that are more of a reach. So, I applied to Simmons, and actually got accepted.”

Sandoval’s mother liked the fact that Simmons is a women’s-centered institution with a solid academic reputation. “My mom said it would be a good challenge for me,” says Sandoval, who also enjoys the smaller classes at Simmons. “I learn best in a small-class setting, and I like being able to interact with my professors and receive help from them.”

Sandoval has been able to develop strong relationships with her Accounting professors. “My advisor is Professor Ray Pfeiffer. I have taken several of his courses and he is great. I also like his style of grading, which is determined more by overall improvement rather than what we got right or wrong in the moment,” she says. “Associate Teaching Professor [and Interim Director of the School of Business] Erin DeCurtis is also wonderful. She is always there to answer my questions about coursework or the accounting field in general.”

Although Sandoval enjoyed her Accounting courses, she considers her Spanish courses at Simmons to be her favorite thus far. “I am a native Spanish speaker, but I still found my Simmons Spanish courses challenging. I especially enjoyed “Latin American Women Writers” [SPAN 336] with Associate Professor and Department Chair Danisa Bonacic. It was interesting to learn to speak and read more formal Spanish than I would use at home,” she reflects.

Moreover, Sandoval realizes that refining her Spanish can complement her work as an accountant. “Speaking Spanish is an asset in the business world. Some clients may feel more comfortable with me if we can converse in Spanish.” As Sandoval reflects back on her recent accomplishments, she recalls the advice she received from her parents: “They told me to never be scared to try something new. Always give it a chance, because you never know where it could lead you. This is what I did for my internship; I just submitted applications widely and got a great offer.”

Sandoval’s own advice to Simmons students is to build a support network that includes family, friends, peers, mentors, counselors, and so forth. “Starting a new job can be overwhelming, so you need to have a community. I found community at Simmons with great advisors like Professor Pfeiffer,” she advises. “As a first-generation student, I did not have any immediate role models. But I hope to be a role model for my younger siblings.”

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Kathryn Dickason