Program Name: Master of Taxation
Year of Graduation: 2019
What is your background?
I studied marine biology and entomology at UC Berkeley and briefly worked as a journalist after college before working as a criminal investigator. Initially, I mulled over going to law school and tried investigations first. Being an investigator is much more fun. This is no different than when I switched from studying accounting to taxes. Tax laws involve the array of human behavior — good or bad — and the intersection of our culture, morals, and history. Like Judge Henry Breithaupt told our tax class, “tax laws and litigation are much like criminal laws.”
Away from school, I like to travel and help other students. I hope to get FAFSA night going at Oregon high schools every October with financial aid workshops. I’ve mentored teens with the United Negro College Fund, and these students have inspired me for the past four years. Through them, I’ve learned about getting scholarships and what it’s like being a teenager in the 21st century. I’m also a parent to a teen who plays varsity sports and takes Arabic classes.
You have a wide diversity of industry experience. What drew you to accounting and taxation?
In my cohort, I’m the “mid-career,” aka “older” student, and I consider myself lucky to have been open to non-conventional paths.
In my former career as an investigator, I started with street crimes and quickly moved within a year to major felonies, including homicides. Then I started to work on cases involving billings and fraud and realized these crimes aren’t always financial — I saw cases of fake credentials, forged identity, and fraudulent prescription drugs and rogue medical treatments.
I was the victim of a terrible car accident, and while recovering, I didn’t want to languish mentally. So I took up studying accounting and then taxation. I realized that I prefer the field of taxation and enjoy reading about tax cases, which, surprisingly, are based on constitutional rights. In June of 2018, The Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in the South Dakota v. Wayfair case. This case, along with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, showcase how taxation is anything but static or boring.
I personally support the movement to shift the tax deadline to fall, because then I can resume going to Coachella — I’ve gone 12 times, but new bands always surface!
How has your experience at Portland State University been?
Accessible, inclusive, and engaging — that’s my trifecta description of PSU. I wish I had more time to partake in the campus activities and food cart offerings.
The diversity here is vast — backgrounds, ideas, needs, demographics, and passions of students, staff, and faculty.
How is your internship going at Schwindt & Company?
Schwindt & Co is a boutique CPA firm that specializes in homeowner associations in the Pacific Northwest, so I’m learning much more than just taxation. As a condo owner in a nationally registered historic building near Portland State University, it’s been eye-opening for me.
The firm’s clients include investors, retirees, partnerships and S corporations. These associations run small to large, from a dozen condo units to an entire island. Most high-end vacation resorts and high-rise urban dwellers seek out this firm because of its tenure and track record of quality niche services. The firm’s founder established this specialty of homeowners association financial services and helped advise legislators on adopting regulations to protect residents. He authored “The Condo Book,” the go-to guide for newbies and savvy investors.
Tax season may be over, but I’m staying on to complete a financial investigation and to learn more about audits and formal financial reviews. It’s always a good sign when my colleagues relish coffee and snacks as much as I do. And, my tax director and supervisors are patient and funny. Three other PSU accounting students intern with me, so I lean on them for accounting insights.
What advice do you have for prospective graduate business students who are interested in your field?
Come to campus to visit and participate with a campus tour, even if you are interested in an online program. Being on campus gives you insight into the culture and values of the community. The online Master of Taxation program fosters students having a career and family.
The Business School and its ambassadors welcome any interested students. Do talk with a professor, academic advisor, or admissions officer. Most professors mentor students, so that is key to your engagement and success.
What inspires you?
My unofficial motto is never stagnate. And it’s corny but true that the students in the Master of Taxation program inspire me. They are amazing — graduating in one year, working full time, being a parent and studying for CPA exams. Some even go through this program with a new baby or a toddler.
My PSU professors are equally amazing and compassionate. Besides knowing so much about their fields, world travels, and people in general, they are dedicated to public education. Nowadays, public education is so vilified, especially campuses like PSU that welcome single parents and students on financial aid.
What are your future goals?
I’m taking a break to visit Seoul and hopefully Tokyo. I’ll be rooting for Tiger Woods at the US Open at Pebble Beach. Then back to studying, as I hope to pass the IRS Enrolled Agent exams. Right now, I don’t have enough accounting courses to sit for the CPA exams, but you never know down the road.