Irvington woman joins administration at Essex County College, her alma mater

Kiswendsida Kaprou

IRVINGTON, NJ — Returning to your alma mater can be like returning home, reliving formative experiences from youth at a place that feels familiar. 

Kiswendsida Kaprou has the rare opportunity not only to relive those experiences, but to continue creating them, as the Irvington resident has returned to her former school, Essex County College, to serve in the role of senior comptroller. 

It’s a position the alumna said she was honored to assume. In this role, she will be “responsible for providing vision, leadership, oversight and sound fiscal management for the financial operations of the college,” according to the description in the job posting.

“Being senior comptroller of my alma mater means a lot to me,” Kaprou said. “I am proud to be one of those people at Essex County College today who work hard day and night to keep the doors of opportunity open for the next generation.”

Kaprou said it was her time at ECC that truly prepared her for the professional world and for her new position as senior comptroller. ECC was the first college she attended after immigrating to the United States from Burkina Faso. Previously she had studied business administration, but a professor saw potential in her and advised her to pursue accounting. 

“Without a strong foundation in accounting, which I received from ECC, I wouldn’t be where I am today, nor would I have been able to pass the CPA exam,” Kaprou said. “ECC did an outstanding job preparing me for a successful four-year college and professional career, and I can never disregard that.”

With her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Business Administration obtained from Montclair State University, Kaprou said she continued to pursue accounting, realizing her passion for it and hoping to become a teacher one day. First, though, she wanted more experience. For that, she turned to corporate accounting.

Kaprou racked up six years of experience, working her way through different corporate positions, all the while learning and taking in as much as she could, with the hope of eventually imparting that knowledge to others. During that time, she held positions at TD Bank, Vanguard and KPMG, giving her valuable experience with investment banking, tax codes and other financial matters. 

“Everything I have learned from all my previous jobs is contributing to my current position,” Kaprou said. “I learned to apply the accounting rules and regulations for proper and accurate financial recording and reporting. And all that makes me who I am, and what I can accomplish in my current position in terms of technical skills and people management.”

Eventually, Kaprou found herself back at ECC, if in a limited capacity. For several years she was an accounting tutor, until the college entrusted her with her own “Accounting 101” class in the spring of 2022. It was an online course and Kaprou was still part-time, but she said it was fulfilling regardless. 

“It was a great experience,” Kaprou said. “I enjoyed teaching, and I felt very happy to see that my students were getting A’s, and I was hoping that very soon a full-time faculty position would open at the college for me to make the move.”

So when the senior comptroller position opened up, Kaprou applied. She said that working full-time at ECC was the culmination of her entire journey, and that ECC is by far her favorite place to work. 

“What I like most about ECC is the culture, the diversity, equity and inclusion,” Kaprou said. “From all the workplaces that I have been in since I came to this country, this is the most diverse, equitable and inclusive place I have worked. I noticed that as a student and always thought of it.”

Accepting the role of senior comptroller was like coming home, Kaprou said, a full-circle moment that allowed her to reflect on her time as a student while looking toward the future. 

As a student, Kaprou said, it was the low cost of the college that drew her to it. But she soon found a home at ECC, and, despite later attending MSU, Karpou said ECC will always be the school she holds in the highest esteem. 

“It’s the college that gave me the right support at the right time, the college that prepared me for university and for the job market,” Kaprou said. “When I saw the senior comptroller position, I mostly felt that I owed the college this position, instead of the college giving me this position. For me it was coming back home— a home that I have never stopped loving and I missed.”

Looking toward the future, Kaprou said she wants to be an example for those around her and for students attending ECC. 

“I hope to be a source of hope for the hopeless,” Kaprou said. “I hope I will be an example for someone to do better in the future. I want someone to look at my life example and resolve to get up and take their life to the next level.”