Member Spotlight: Sara Adams

April 27, 2021

Sara Adams

Sara Adams, CPA
Senior Instructor
Southern Oregon University
OSCPA Member since: 2006

How has the CPA credential defined your career so far?
I am so proud to be a CPA. Passing the exam and getting my license, which seemed so unattainable to me as a student, was a huge boost to my confidence. Seeing those three letters after my name is something that, 15 years later, still makes me smile. My husband, who is also a CPA, once said that “public accounting teaches you how to do things that you have no idea how to do!” and that is what my years in public accounting did. This profession definitely helped me to become comfortable with not having all of the answers, but being able to figure it out. The accomplishment of becoming a CPA also helped me to make the scary leap into teaching, which was not something in my experience, but I knew I could “figure it out” and do it well.

Who inspired you along the way?
As a student at SOU, unsure of my career path and insecure about my abilities, I was greatly encouraged and inspired by all of my accounting professors — but in particular by Susan Cain, (now emeritus faculty and whose family include mother Nancy Tang, past OSCPA President; father Joseph O'Rourke, past OSCPA Treasurer; and stepfather Don Tang, past OSCPA President). Susan continually told me I could pass the exam, even though I doubted it. She opened my eyes to what a successful woman in the profession looked like and could achieve. Susan was a mentor as my college professor and then as a fellow colleague once I started teaching. Again, unsure of my ability to be a good teacher, I modeled much of what I did and what I continue to do after her. Another very important mentor of mine was Don Pinkham, also a long-time OSCPA member, for whom I worked during my 8 years in public accounting. Don trusted me with many opportunities that I didn’t feel ready for, but which pushed me to mature as a CPA and business person. He endlessly supported me while I was learning to balance work and being a new mom. A great deal of my growth has been nourished by the guidance of them both.

What’s the best part of your job/what do you love about your job?
The students, no doubt. I am inspired and energized by them daily. They make me want to continually improve as a teacher; and I hope to inspire them as well. My colleagues are a close second. Having been a student at SOU, I sometimes still feel as if I’m hanging out with my favorite professors!

How has being an OSCPA member and chapter council member benefitted you?
I have met some wonderful people through the OSCPA, most notably, some very inspirational women. I’m grateful to have true advocates and supporters in the profession. Some of these people, though I’ve only had brief interactions with them, are Elizabeth Almer, Sherri McPherson, and Selene Sullivan. It’s assuring to know that I have people to reach out to if I need advice or encouragement. And I am definitely proud to be a member of an organization that does so much for accounting students in our state.

What advice do you give to your students?
I try to encourage them to try to be curious about everything! This makes learning a fun and life-long pursuit. Also, I talk a lot about my belief that there is not one right path in life. Many students feel the pressure to figure out what it is they are “supposed” to be doing; they view this as a quest and worry that if they don’t find the answer right away, they won’t be happy. I tell them to just start somewhere  — to pick the job that intuitively feels best and then be open and flexible to change. This is something I didn’t know as a young adult. Our paths are not straight; I mean, I never guessed I would be teaching! Another crucial suggestion I give is to get involved in nonprofit and volunteer work. Some of my most valuable experiences and connections have come from my work on boards or committees; and some of my greatest satisfaction has been the result of using my skills to give back to the community.

How are students today different from when you were in school?
I don’t know if they fundamentally are! I think we tend to feel very different from the younger generations, but I believe students now have more similarities than differences to my classmates and me. The obvious answer is that they are much more technologically advanced than I was at that stage of my life, and there definitely are those differences. I try to keep in mind that the way I learned or did things isn’t the only or best way and that I need to be open to new ways of teaching concepts rather than relying on how I learned them. I have students of many ages in my classes, but in considering the traditional students in their 20’s, I think this is a hard age and a hard stage — trying to find out what you want to spend your life doing, managing the social and financial pressures of going to school, discovering who you are as a human — is not easy work! I just try to be mindful of who I was in my early 20’s and understanding of how difficult it can feel. To me, it’s a mistake to be of the mindset that college students have it easy, have few responsibilities compared to myself, and are in “the best time in their lives.” There is a lot of angst in becoming an adult; I don’t think that will ever change.

What do you look forward to post-pandemic?
On a professional level, I can’t wait for more in-person student and faculty social events as well as in-person graduation. I love giving my students hugs as they step off that commencement stage in June. Of course, being back in the classroom is at the top of the list. It is impossible to achieve the same level of energy over Zoom, in my opinion. On a personal level, I’m looking forward to travel with family and friends!

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