Alumni Profile: Susan McMahon, B.B.A. Accounting '89

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

UAA Accounting alum Susan McMahonUAA alumna Susan McMahon is an adventurist. She's lived all over the U.S. from New York to Alaska and Utah to Oregon and Texas, and she's never been afraid to take a leap to uncharted territory.

In 1987, Susan decided to move to Anchorage to continue her college career. "When I was a kid, my uncle who lives in Anchorage told these amazing stories about Alaska. I was intrigued," she said. As a lover of the outdoors, Alaska seemed like the perfect fit for Susan. "I wanted to travel and go to school at the same time."

To research universities in Alaska, Susan went to a bookstore and grabbed "Barron's Book of Colleges" looking for a college with an accounting degree. "I opened it and saw UAA. Six months later, I was on a plane to Anchorage."

Susan earned her first accounting degree at UAA. "UAA was a great place for me to learn the foundations of accounting. It was an amazing place to go to college," she said.

As a lifelong skier, Susan wanted to combine her passion for the sport with her career choice. "Everyone needs an accountant," she said, "so, why not work somewhere fun and interesting?"

Her first goal was to become an accountant at a ski resort. Three years after receiving her accounting degree at UAA and working for a public accounting firm, her dream became a reality--she became the accounting manager at Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort in Oregon.

After 10 years at the resort, she decided it was time for a change. In 2002, the Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City. "I thought 'they'll need people to do some accounting,' so I applied for a job and got it."

As a finance manager for the 2002 Winter Olympics, Susan had the opportunity to not only watch the games live but experience some of the fun Olympic sports. She got to ride the skeleton. "It was so awesome and scary. I was on my stomach on the sled and went 60 mph down the course. It was pretty intense," she said.

In 2010, Susan completed her Ph.D. at the University of Utah and is currently a professor of accounting at Texas Christian University. It was her love for education that led her to teach. "I loved college as a student, and I really love to learn about everything. It's fun to be back in higher education where I started. I'm happy."

Susan brings her enthusiastic attitude to the classroom. "I try to make my students laugh in each class to keep them excited. If they laugh, I had a successful class."

She also tells her students that accounting can be more than a desk job. "Accountants don't have to sit in a cube all day. If you find your field of passion, then you take a career in accounting to a new level," Susan said.

Going to UAA and living in Alaska was a memorable experience for Susan. "It's such an amazing place. It opens the mind."

With all of Susan's different jobs and experience, she said all of her prospective employers were interested about her time in Alaska. "Every job I interviewed for was interested in UAA. From walking to class and encountering a moose to seeing the Northern Lights to my eyelashes freezing, it was all a wonderful experience I'll share and remember forever."

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