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Berkeley College alumna Cassie Kowalchuk

Berkeley College Gives Graduate Confidence to Balance Successful Careers in Accounting and Animal Rescue



Berkeley College alumna Cassie Kowalchuk Cassie Kowalchuk graduated from Berkeley College in 2008 with a B.S. in Accounting and earned an M.S. in Accounting from Kean University in 2012. In addition to preparing her for a growing accounting career in the pharmaceutical field, Ms. Kowalchuk’s time at Berkeley College also encouraged her to follow her passion for helping animals. “Berkeley College gave me the confidence that I could do anything,” she said.

Inspired by her time volunteering at the Clifton Animal Shelter while taking courses at Berkeley College in Woodland Park, NJ, Ms. Kowalchuk co-founded the One Step Closer Animal Rescue (O.S.C.A.R.) in 2010, registering the organization for 501(c)3 nonprofit status at the age of 22. The Sparta, NJ, resident and her volunteers have rescued and adopted out nearly 4,000 animals since its inception. They opened O.S.C.A.R.’s own shelter in Andover, NJ, this past year. “I don’t want this to be it for us. I want us to continue to grow and do even more for rescued animals in the years to come,” Ms. Kowalchuk said.

Starting her own rescue organization had its challenges, especially as she balanced volunteer work with commitments to school and a full-time job. Ms. Kowalchuk continued her animal rescue efforts as she attended Kean University and worked at Mills & DeFilippis CPAs in a full-time position, which initially started as an internship Berkeley College Career Services helped arrange for her. She continues to balance her time between O.S.C.A.R. and her current role as a senior accountant at Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

“Time, especially not having enough of it, is always an issue,” Ms. Kowalchuk said. “It’s hard juggling everything, being tired, feeling stressed, and never feeling like you have enough time to devote to one thing with so much occurring. You just have to push yourself and say to yourself ‘you can do it!’ If you want something badly enough, you just make it happen.”

Berkeley College alumna Cassie Kowalchuk

Up Close with Cassie Kowalchuk

What does success mean to you?

Success is doing what you love to do, and feeling a sense of achievement.

What initially inspired you to enroll at Berkeley College?

My mother, Deborah Kowalchuk, went to Berkeley College when it was still primarily a secretarial school. She always spoke highly of her time at Berkeley, and I wanted to follow in her footsteps.

What inspired you to launch O.S.C.A.R.?

I started volunteering at the Clifton Animal Shelter, which is not far from Berkeley College’s campus in Woodland Park, NJ. I used to volunteer after class and wish I could do more for animals. I wasn’t sure how exactly I was going to do it, but I took that leap and never looked back. I started O.S.C.A.R., built the organization, and in 2016 we made our dreams of having a shelter come true.

How did Berkeley College prepare you for success, as well as prepare you for the challenges that come with balancing a career in accounting and volunteering at an animal shelter?

Berkeley College gave me confidence and prepared me for my career path. Their internship program helped me land a full-time job at Mills & DeFilippis CPAs right out of college. I worked there for nearly nine years before moving on to my current role at Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

Berkeley helped make the balance pretty easy for me. They offered many classes so I could make my own schedule. I was able to work, go to classes, and do the animal rescue work that I love.

In which way(s) do you see yourself being successful in the future?

I plan to keep growing my accounting career in the pharmaceutical world. Outside of my professional career, I plan to continue to grow O.S.C.A.R. Animal rescue work is very important to me, and I want to impact animals’ lives daily. My career path allows me to devote time and finances to my passion.

What advice would you give to college-bound students?

Education is very important in today’s working world. Take full advantage of all Berkeley has to offer. Career Services and the internship experience are important to starting your career.

What was your most memorable moment at Berkeley College?

My most memorable moment was graduating. I knew my future was bright and full of possibilities. I couldn't wait to graduate and start my career.