When CPAs Go Back to School

by Monette Anderson | Aug 02, 2017

Does molding and inspiring the minds of the next generation of CPAs interest you? Did you know that there is a nationwide shortage of accounting faculty? While the time commitment to earn a doctorate may have kept many CPAs from transferring to academia, the shortage has opened up many new pathways to academic careers, including additional part-time and adjunct faculty openings. If you are a licensed CPA with a master’s degree, you can likely find many teaching opportunities and maintain your current employment. It is a solid way to determine if a more permanent career move might be right for you. We reached out to some of our accounting professors across the state of Washington who made the switch from practitioner to teacher to ask what drew them to teaching and how it differs from the positions they had held in public accounting or industry positions.

What do you love about teaching?

Jenny: There is a lot to love. The most significant part I love is that, daily, I have an opportunity to influence the future. As an executive, I cherished the opportunities I had to coach and mentor young people, but the higher I rose within an organization the less I interacted directly with millennials, who are our future. This new role affords me an endless opportunity to assist young people from many different backgrounds in reaching their goals. To me, that’s priceless. I also enjoy the flexibility and even the performance art part of the gig.

Tara: I enjoy teaching students accounting and mentoring them through their undergraduate careers. I care very deeply about my students as individuals, and about their ability to succeed in the classroom and beyond. It is a challenge to make accounting interesting, and I strive to bring the classroom alive by sharing my industry experience to link theory with real world application. I am also passionate about accounting ethics. In my courses we discuss the concept of information usefulness and how financial information is relied upon for decision making.

Gabriel: Much like my time as an auditor, I like that each day is filled with something new. College campuses are robust with an amazing energy from both students and professors. It’s an exciting place to work, think, motivate, and challenge. I am inspired by what I see students and my peers doing in the classroom, around campus, and in the greater community, often times selflessly. On a personal level, I like the somewhat flexible schedule. It is not too often you will find me lecturing at 8 a.m.

Ron: First, I love being around the students. My children all live out of state and I joke with students all the time that they are my surrogate family. One thing I do at UW Bothell is serve as the faculty advisor for Beta Alpha Psi. This puts me in close contact with a group of highly energetic, smart, personable and motivated young adults. It’s hard to spend much time with these kids and not come away feeling pretty upbeat about the future of our industry and our country.

I also really like seeing accounting students get a start in a fantastic career that will likely position them well for the rest of their professional life. I think many of our students start college knowing that they are interested in business, but not knowing what accounting is really about. They take a few accounting classes, start to gain interest, and realize that it can lead down a path where they will become a CPA. They start to understand what it means to be a CPA and what the CPA brand is all about: honesty, fairness, objectivity, critical thinking … and that is all pretty cool to watch.

Why would you encourage others to take the leap to become an accounting educator?

Jenny: I would encourage others to take the leap if they feel passionate about the future. Positively passionate. The differences between this role and a CPA role in industry is significant. This kind of change is not for the faint of heart. It’s certainly not a slow, easy ride into the sunset that some might imagine. However, the rewards of knowing that you are creating future accountants and leaders in business, with the ethics and values so important to our industry, is incalculable. If that is your interest, then teaching at the college level will be a fantastic experience.

Tara: Teaching is a very rewarding career through which you can share a passion of accounting and help students be excited about becoming a CPA. It is a wonderful opportunity to use your CPA credentials in service to your community.

Gabriel: First, I would say, “taking the leap” [to pursue a doctorate/Ph.D.] is a big step that requires 4-5 years of a much different lifestyle. You literally become a college student again, and with that comes the price of books, late night studying, papers, exams, etc. This can be very difficult to balance depending on where you, and your family, may be physically, emotionally, or financially. However, if you can make the commitment, the rewards are endless. I like being able to see the difference I am making as both a scholar and professor. This sense of accomplishment was something hard to feel as an auditor, even though I liked my job very much. Being a professor is an opportunity to see the profession through a unique lens and often be part of a larger change.

Ron: We need more practical experience in our accounting classrooms. The Pathways Commission, co-sponsored by the AICPA and the American Accounting Association (AAA) to study the status of accounting education, concluded as much in their report issued in 2012. My own professional life has consisted of three distinct phases: public accounting, industry and now education.  All three of these careers were challenging and stimulating, but the experience I’ve had in being able to bring my public accounting and industry experience into the classroom has perhaps been the most rewarding. I would absolutely encourage anyone else in a similar position to take the leap.

Meet the CPAs we spoke to:

Jenny Cravens, MAC, CPA, Central Washington University


Jenny Cravens had a successful 20-year career in the financial services industry in various roles within the finance and accounting spectrum.  Her most recent role was CFO of Cashmere Valley Bank in Central Washington. In 2010, her interest in teaching propelled her to become a member of CWU’s College Advisory Board, a position she held for seven years. “I sought out as many opportunities as I could to interact with students. I believe that is probably what caught Dean Martell’s eye and, likely, why she approached me about the P.R. O’Shaughnessy Executive Professor of Accounting position. The position seemed tailor-made for me, so I asked myself, ‘Why wait until retirement?’ I went for it.”

Tara Lambert, MBA, CPA, Whitworth University

Tara-Lambert-headshot-blog-square-200x200Before transitioning into teaching, Tara worked in public accounting, non-profit and industry. She worked for Edirol Corporation North America in Bellingham and Rader Farms in Lynden for the majority of her pre-teaching career. Her roles included accountant, HR manager and controller. After completing her MBA, she taught night courses for Whitworth University. “My students wrote business plans and entered them into a Northwest Business Plan Competition. The experience of seeing them become excited about their ideas, spend hours writing a business plan and compete for prize money to fund their venture was very rewarding,” said Tara. “After these courses were finished I knew I wanted to teach full time.” She has been teaching full time at Whitworth for four years and is pursuing her Doctorate of Business Adminstration (DBA) at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater as a Washington CPA Foundation Scholarship winner.

Gabriel Saucedo, Ph.D., CPA, Seattle University


Gabriel received his BBA with a double concentration in accounting and management from Gonzaga University in 2001. An audit internship in the Seattle office of KPMG led to a full-time position in the audit practice in 2002. In his fourth year at KPMG, he was selected by the firm to be an internal instructor for their Audit Fundamentals (now Audit Foundations) training. The firm began pairing the internal KPMG senior/managers with one college professor so the trainings were infused with high-quality theoretical as well as practical instruction. “During this time, I began to network with a new group of accounting professionals. The professors always talked so enthusiastically about what they did back at their universities,” said Gabriel. “Eventually, many began asking me about my career path and if I’d ever thought about a career in academia. I guess you can say that’s where the seed was planted.” He left KPMG in 2008 to prep for his graduate degrees and remained in consulting work. He started at Virginia Tech in 2010 and finished his PhD in May 2014. He returned to the PNW to a full-time, tenure-track position at Seattle University.

Ron Tilden, CPA, University of Washington, Bothell


Ron Tilden graduated from the University of Washington in 1979 and joined the audit staff of Deloitte. Ron always liked teaching and even as a young CPA at Deloitte he taught night classes at North Seattle Community College. He also tried to teach as many internal education sessions as he could while at Deloitte. “I like to take complicated subjects and break them down so that I can explain them in a logical way,” said Ron. “The idea of transitioning to academia when I was ready for a ‘downshift’ in my corporate career was something that was always in the back of my mind.” After eight years at Deloitte, he worked for Intermec Corporation in Everett for eight years, and rose to CFO. In 1995, he became the CFO of WRQ in Seattle, a successful software company.  While it was a great experience, he left in 2001 and started teaching at University of Washington’s Bothell campus. He is now a Senior Lecturer teaching intermediate and advanced accounting. Ron also serves on the WSCPA Board of Directors.

Monette-Anderson-HeadshotMonette Anderson is the WSCPA Academic Relations Coordinator. You can reach her at


This article appeared in the spring 2017 issue of WashingtonCPA Magazine. Read more here.

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