Former PSEO student qualifies for Microsoft Office Specialist Nationals in Orlando
Madeline “Maddie” Maas, 21, is pursuing her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Accounting at Dakota County Technical College. On track to graduate in spring 2024, Maddie turned in the highest score in Minnesota on her Microsoft Excel (Office 2016) exam at the Fall Qualifier in December 2022.
Maddie’s performance earned her the right to compete at the Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship in Orlando, Florida, June 26–28, 2023. The event takes place at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Hotel in the Disney Springs Area. Her invitation to the competition covers the entrance fee, but not transportation and hotel costs.
After considering her college and job responsibilities, Maddie opted against attending the national championship. “I will be focusing on work and saving money this summer,” she said.
Maddie enrolled in the Accounting program, which is delivered 100 percent online, with the goal to earn her A.A.S. degree and launch a career in the accounting field.
“I’ve always been interested in numbers,” she said, “and I took an accounting class in high school that I liked. I have had classes at a few different colleges around this area, and DCTC was my favorite, and I was the most successful here. For me, I didn’t even consider going to a different school for this degree.”
Maddie has centered her career plans on working at an accounting firm or becoming an accountant in the healthcare industry.
“I know that there are a ton of different opportunities with accounting, and some of them require more schooling,” she said. “If I find that I am interested in an area of accounting that requires more schooling, I will continue. If I find a career that I will be content with by earning a two-year degree, I am perfectly okay with that as well! Even if I do decide to stop with my A.A.S. degree for now, I don’t think earning a bachelor’s degree will ever be entirely off the table.”
Maddie’s take on Microsoft Office
What do you like best about Microsoft Excel?
I like that there are so many things you can do with it. I am very grateful that I was able to learn so much from my Spreadsheets class because Excel is a great tool if you know what it can do and how to use it!
I think I did so well because I made sure that I really understood the material throughout the course. During the semester, I took all of my class schedules and formatted them with Excel using the things I had been learning, playing with different formatting and functions.
I think this really helped solidify the content in my memory and made it easier for me to do the exam tasks faster, allowing me to spend less time on each task during the exam.
I think I went through the exam at a good pace, and I still wasn’t able to complete two of the tasks before time ran out. I think that if I hadn’t spent so much time practicing my Excel skills outside of class, I would have had a lot more unfinished tasks and scored a lot less.
What advice would you give students trying to improve their Microsoft Office skills?
For Excel specifically, repetition is key. There are so many things you can do and some of them are not always straightforward or easy to remember. Just like anything, the more you use it the more you will remember, and you might discover something new!
Maddie’s PSEO experience
Maddie was a high school freshman when she lost her mom, Ann, in 2015. She went through a very difficult time and had trouble focusing on her schoolwork. As a Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) student attending college-level classes at DCTC, she was able to renew her interest in her studies.
Maddie made the best use of her time as a PSEO student. She completed a number of general education courses as well as courses she needed to graduate from Northfield High School, Class of 2019.
“PSEO gave me the freedom that high school didn’t provide,” Maddie said. “I was accountable for making sure I attended all my classes and got assignments done on time. Knowing that the things I did during this time would count toward my future college endeavors and being responsible enough to maintain good grades. The classes were different—in a good way, and I liked how many more options there were.”
When asked what advice she would give prospective PSEO students, Maddie replied, “Go for it. As long as you can manage your time and stay organized and motivated it can only help you. It’s free college! I highly recommend getting a planner to help you stay on top of deadlines and even if it seems lame, take notes in class. They definitely saved my life on almost all my assignments and tests.”
Maddie added that PSEO students should take classes they would ordinarily avoid.
“Expand your horizons, you might find that you enjoy a subject that you wouldn’t have ever thought that you would be interested in,” she said. “Make lots of friends, PSEO students and regular college students. The people who are there and in college will not think you’re crazy or different because you’re still in high school and doing PSEO—they treat you like any of their other classmates. Some of my best friends are the college students that I met while doing PSEO.”
Lyle Stelter: Accounting faculty perspective
“Maddie Maas is a most excellent student. Accounting faculty members are so proud of her great accomplishments.
“Maddie’s work during fall semester in my online accounting class was at a very superior level! Maddie will be a great asset to any accounting department after she graduates.”
Dakota County Technical College
Marie Saunders: Accounting faculty perspective
“When I received notification from Certiport of Maddie’s accomplishment, I was so pleased and happy for Maddie. To receive notice of a top scorer was very exciting, and I called Maddie immediately to congratulate her.
“I know she was proud of her high score as well and received a certificate from Certiport stating she was top in the state of Minnesota. She is an excellent student and I think she will go far in her career.
“The certification test in Excel was something the Accounting program started to offer a few years ago, and the students have all done quite well in passing this certification. Seeing Maddie do so well will encourage future students to study and prepare for this industry-recognized certification.”
Dakota County Technical College
More about Maddie…
Originally from Northfield, Minnesota, Maddie landed her first job very early in her life. She was hired at the Dairy Queen in Northfield when she was only 13 years old.
“When I started, I could only stay until 7 p.m. during the school week and 9 p.m. on weekends,” Maddie recalled. “During the summer, I could stay until 9 p.m. every day. I couldn’t use the oven/food warmers, I couldn’t stand on the stools, and I couldn’t use a scissors or sharp knives.”
Those restrictions were lifted around the time she turned 16 and became a shift lead. Maddie’s starting wage was $7.25 an hour. She noted that the Northfield Dairy Queen is family-owned and not a corporate store, which is why she could be hired at age 13.
After graduating from high school, Maddie moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, for six months to be with her sister, Liz. Maddie was able to go to the beach a lot because Liz lived only three miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Two of Maddie’s favorite beaches are world-famous, Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach.
When she returned to Minnesota in 2020, Maddie earned a Phlebotomy certificate at South Central College. She worked as a phlebotomist at M Health Fairview Ridges Hospital Burnsville for a time, but ultimately decided not to follow that career path. Maddie currently works as a financial and insurance coordinator at Minnesota Orthodontics in Northfield, having started at the practice in 2021 as a sterile technician.
Maddie’s dad, Ray, is a mechanic and welder at Midstate Trucking in Lakeville, Minnesota. Maddie has two brothers, Matt, 36, a delivery person for Pizza Hut, and Al, 30, an employee with Malt-O-Meal, both in Northfield.
Maddie’s sister, Liz, 32, is engaged to be married. Her fiancé, Justin, is a U.S. Army veteran working as a private military contractor in the Middle East. Liz and Justin have three children, Lydia, 15, Frankie, 5, and Thea, 2; Lydia and Frankie were born on the same day 10 years apart. Maddie has another older sister named Missy, who has two boys, Kyler, 15, and Kaleb, 14.
Maddie’s boyfriend of three years, Jeffrey, 22, works as an autobody repairman at CARSTAR in Northfield. Maddie lived in Wendell, Idaho, for six months during her freshman year in high school, and that’s where she discovered Teddy, a 6-year-old, black, rescue cat with a white spot on her chest.
“We heard kittens crying under our house,” Maddie said. “Their mother had left them behind. We found Teddy inside a pipe and scooped her out with a wire hanger.”
In her free time, Maddie likes playing board games, including Battleship and Clue, card games, including Garbage and Phase 10. She also enjoys, cooking and baking, movie night or binging shows, and doing her homework. She resides in Northfield.
Maddie family and friends gallery
One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:
Maddie Maas • Q & A
What inspired you to enroll at DCTC to pursue your accounting degree?
I’ve always been interested in numbers, and I took an accounting class in high school that I liked. I have had classes at a few different colleges around this area, and DCTC was my favorite, and I was the most successful here. For me, I didn’t even consider going to a different school for this degree.
What do you like best about the Accounting program?
I love having Marie [Saunders] and Lyle [Stelter] as teachers. They take the time to create a number of really thorough video lectures that help me understand the material. I love that I learn so much from their videos; it makes reading a textbook much easier because I have already heard and learned most of the material from them.
I am so grateful for the way they teach—Marie and Lyle can take a topic that can be confusing and stressful to learn and make it easy. If I ever have questions or need help, they are great about responding and helping me understand.
Even though it’s an online program, it’s almost as if I’m in the classroom with them. You can tell that they care about what they’re doing and want their students to succeed based on how much time and effort they put into everything.
Three words that describe you as a college student:
ORGANIZED. MOTIVATED. DETAILED.
What advice would you give students thinking about majoring in accounting?
If you aren’t sold on accounting as a career, you could still take some accounting courses. I don’t think it would be a waste of your time if you end up choosing a different career path. You’d be learning about interest, taxes, and other financial matters that will be useful to know whether you’re an accountant or not.
What branch of accounting do you find the most interesting and why?
I like financial accounting; I don’t think I’ve really done much else so far. Going through the accounting cycle from start to finish is very fun for me.
What person has influenced your life the most and why?
My mom and now the memory of her. I like to think that she is watching over me and I hope that she is proud of who I have been and who I am becoming. Even though she’s gone I know that she would always be encouraging me to succeed. She is remembered for being a very kind, caring and smart person. I strive to be like her because she affected so many people in a positive way.
Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?
Having a good job and living in a house with my husband, kids, dog, and cat in a town that’s not too big.
Maddie Maas • 12 Answers
- Favorite sport or physical activity: To watch: football; to do: volleyball
- Place you would most like to visit: All of Europe
- The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Moved around the country and bounty hunting in the Twin Cities
- Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Buy a big piece of land somewhere in the mountains with a huge house 2) Buy another huge house somewhere in Europe 3) Buy a jet to travel between the two
- Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: Recently: Top Gun: Maverick; all-time favorite movie: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
- Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: The Wild West
- One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Learn different languages
- Your national bird if you were your own country: Still the bald eagle—I love it.
- Dream occupation: Astronaut
- Person you would most like to meet: Keanu Reeves
- Skill you would most like to learn and master: Ninjutsu or cooking
- Most important issue or problem facing humankind: It seems like pretty much everything right now!
Learn more about the Accounting program at DCTC by contacting:
Academic & Financial Aid Advisor
More about the Accounting program at DCTC…
As a student in the Accounting program, you will be trained to analyze, interpret, and record financial information regarding the operations and financial condition of businesses and organizations. Working with spreadsheet and accounting software, you will acquire the skills required to prepare financial statements, tax returns, and government forms. You’ll also learn federal and state tax and payroll laws.
Accountants need to be lifelong learners with the ability to understand all aspects of business operations. They also enjoy working in teams, planning projects, taking on new challenges, forging solutions, and explaining complex matters in lucid terms.
Degree, diploma, and certificate options
The Accountant A.A.S. degree provides the basic and intermediate accounting skills you’ll need to enter the workforce as an accountant or transfer to a four-year school to earn a more advanced degree. The Accountant diploma is designed to get you working as an accountant as soon as possible.
The Accounting Clerk diploma provides basic accounting skills you’ll need to begin your career as an accounting clerk. The Small Business Accounting certificate is designed to provide accounting skills for an entrepreneur to start or manage a business, or for administrative staff overseeing accounting functions of an organization.
Accountants and Auditors
Interpret budget statements in order to give financial advice.
This career pays above the statewide median of $23.81/hour
Seven-county Twin Cities metro
In Minnesota, there are 27,490 workers employed in this very large career, which is currently in very high demand and seeing high growth compared to other careers. Growth rate in the U.S. is 6.9 percent.
There will be a need for about 24,461 new Accountants and Auditors to meet market demand between 2020–2030. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.
— Minnesota State CAREERwise Education (18JAN23)