It all started for Lander University senior Rebecca Strickland in seventh grade when a math teacher sought out her help.
The teacher was concerned about a student who was drowning in a struggle with algebra, and knew Strickland had a liking for numbers – Could she help this student avoid a D or an F?
Strickland agreed – and ever since that day, through high school and Lander, she has used her friendship with numbers to help many students navigate the hazards of Xs, Ys, hyperbolas and quadratics to keep their drowning math scores above “C” level.
“Rebecca’s the kind of senior and tutor I wish we could keep,” said Anissa Lawrence, tutoring and supplemental Instruction coordinator with the Academic Success Center. “She not only has a calming effect with students in need of tutoring, but several times has helped them reach the next level in their math.”
Accounting for the Numbers
Even at age 13, while many of her classmates were just going to school, Strickland enjoyed the challenge of finding the values for Xs and Ys and plugging equations into graphs to find out how two lines were related to one another.
At the time, math was just fun – but by the next year, it led her to a path from which she has never looked back.
“Our eighth-grade math teacher was leading a discussion one day about how the concepts of algebra could be applied to everyday life and fit into the real world,” Strickland said. “Through these conversations, I became interested in accounting.”
Strickland soon imagined herself in a world with balance sheets, financial information, bookkeeping and external auditing.
She asked people she knew in the field what their work entailed and became “more and more interested.”
Two years into high school, a summer business conference at Virginia Tech University gave Strickland and her conference team an opportunity to formulate a model business, develop plans for company operations, and “see how our decisions impacted the company.”
“After that, I was hooked,” she said. “I couldn’t stop talking about the conference for weeks after I came home, and that’s when I knew I wanted to pursue a career that would continue to challenge me and require me to think critically.”
By the time she turned 16, Strickland had her sights on becoming a Certified Public Accountant – a profession always in demand, but rarely on the high-school radar.
By the Tutorials
Once she entered Lander in the fall of 2015, Strickland found many encouragements to reinforce her goal.
She signed up as a math tutor at the Academic Success Center right after her first semester – and despite having to balance tests, composition papers, and academic projects like other students, Strickland stayed with tutoring right through her senior year because “I love working in the trenches with students and helping them get the results they want.”
Once in session, students got the “Strickland treatment” – which meant weeks of listening, explaining, graphing equations with colored markers, and, on occasion, waving her arms around wildly into the shape of a parabola to explain what a parabola looks like and how it functions.
“Rebecca would do anything to help raise a student’s math grade,” Lawrence said. “And once they came to her for help in math, they came back again and again.”
In her senior year, Strickland was one of about 80 tutors across 30 different subject areas, including mathematics, nursing, history, foreign languages, biology, chemistry and physical science.
All tutors must first have taken the class, passed with an “A”, hold a 3.0 minimum GPA, and be faculty recommended.
“We typically see between 500 – 600 different students each semester,” Lawrence said. “They come throughout the year for all kinds of events such as twilight tutoring, Peer Assisted Study Sessions, and C.A.D. Camp which targets students in general biology, chemistry, and physical science.”
When the College Reading & Learning Association (CRLA) approved Lander in 2017 for International Tutor Training Program Certification (ITTPC), Lawrence said it was due to the efforts of Strickland and all of the success center’s tutors.
“And while Rebecca has been only one of our very qualified tutors, she certainly raised our bar of excellence pretty high,” she said.
A Real-Life Time-Turner
If it sounds like Strickland has had no time for her own studying or academics, consider that she carried a 4.0 GPA all four years, made the President’s List every semester, earned both a Lander Academic Scholarship and a William K. and Lula Business Scholarship in 2017; was a recipient of both the Dick Horne Foundation Scholarship and the Junior Service League of Orangeburg scholarship; and, was one of five finalists at gradtuation for the Thayer Award, Lander’s highest ac ademic honor.
If it further sounds like she’s had no time to relax or mingle, also consider that Strickland spent the summer of 2017 as a member of the Bearcat Orientation Team, joined the Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society in her junior year, and served two semesters as a Presidential Ambassador, giving campus tours to visiting and potential Lander students.
As to how she managed it all, Strickland said it wasn’t so much about creating more time (like a Harry Potter time-turner) but knowing how to control it.
“For me, it boils down to discipline and not procrastinating,” she said. “And time management is something I feel I will I keep learning far into my adult years.”
Ask Strickland the name of her hometown – and when she says, “I’m from North, South Carolina,” you might find yourself on the front end of an unintentional Abbott-and-Costello routine if you reply, “Where in north South Carolina?”
Her hometown is just over two hours from Francis Marion University, just under two hours from Winthrop University, and only one long-ish twisting turning drive from Columbia College – all of which accepted Strickland into their programs in 2015.
But she said she chose Lander for several reasons: the international accreditation of the Business Department, being able to secure a ride home from two other students after freshman orientation when her car wouldn’t start – and most importantly, some good advice from a competing university.
“A professor from another institution told me to go to the college where I could visualize myself walking through the hallways and talking to the students,” Strickland said. “He told me, ‘When you find that comfort, you know you’ve found home. And that’s what Lander was for me the first time I stepped on campus: It was my second home.”
The Power of One
Even before her graduation from Lander on Dec. 18, 2018, Strickland had already made plans to spend the next two years studying for her Master’s in Accounting at the University of South Carolina, while at the same time completing all requirements for the CPA exam.
“My goal is to be a licensed CPA by the time I earn my Master’s,” she said.
Dr. Gail Moore, Associate Professor of Accounting at Lander, said her money is on Strickland to achieve that goal just because of her nature.
“Rebecca is an active learner,” said Moore, who taught Strickland in four accounting classes. “She doesn’t wait to be taught, but rather seeks the answers.”
Matthew Peters, assistant professor of management with the College of Business, added that “Regardless of where life takes her, Rebecca will be more than a match for any challenge she might face.”
Well, all but maybe one.
Strickland said when January comes, it will be “really hard” not to come back to the place she considers her college home.
“The first time I stepped on campus, I knew that Lander was where I was meant to be,” she said. “I have grown so much during my time here, and I am so grateful for every experience I have had along the way.”