Susan Henderson

Accounting to academia

How Susan Henderson transitioned from a career in public accounting to academia thanks to the UF Doctor of Business Administration program.

If you believe in things like destiny, you might say that Susan Henderson (DBA ’18) was destined to work in accounting. She is a third-generation public accountant and the eighth member of her family to work in the field. “Looking back, it is not that surprising that I have chosen public accounting as the basis of my career as I have come from a long line of public accountants, including my grandfather, my father, two uncles and three cousins,” she said. “I am married to a CPA whom owns his own firm as well!” Born in a rural central valley California town, she attended Fresno State University and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting. Following in her father’s footsteps, Henderson started her career in public accounting after passing the CPA exam to become a Certified Public Accountant in California. She began her career in Deloitte’s Fresno office as an audit assistant before joining her father’s CPA practice as a tax manager. Once she started at her father’s firm, an interesting opportunity presented itself. With her passion for public accounting, she couldn’t turn it down. “Once joining our local firm, I was given the opportunity to teach an undergraduate accounting class at my alma mater, Fresno State,” she said. “After my first semester, I was hooked!” After starting her family, she realized that teaching part-time and working as a CPA would be too difficult a schedule to maintain. She quickly decided that academia was the place where she could continue in her beloved field of accounting while also helping students in the classroom. That was when she knew she’d need to add another degree to her wall, a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). “Once I started teaching, I knew right away that my passion lies with educating college students and my initial reasoning to pursue a DBA was to further my career in academia,” she said. “Primarily, I was hoping to be immersed in an environment that not only taught me the necessary skills to produce quality research, but interconnected the research to critical business issues that I was facing in my role as a public accountant. I diligently researched several programs, both nationally and internationally, and the DBA program at UF was exactly what I was looking for.” After being accepted into the UF DBA program, Henderson received more great news – she was pregnant with her second child. Her initial excitement quickly bowed to uneasiness. “I went to orientation very unsure how this was all going to work, and I was incredibly nervous about taking this very important step in my career while expanding our family,” she said. “After meeting my cohort and spending two weeks in Gainesville, I came home confident that I was going to figure this out in order to successfully complete the program.” Turning her apprehension into determination, Henderson came up with a plan to make the program’s time commitment work. In reducing her teaching load and CPA hours during non-tax season, Henderson was able to dedicate time to learning and still have a flexible family schedule. While she admits it was challenging to manage everything, her motivation to continue pushed her forward. “The main struggle for me was time management, especially with young children,” she said. “I needed to keep a strict, detailed schedule of obligations, while staying flexible enough to deal with unexpected setbacks. I also made sure to schedule fun time with my family, as taking a break from the work to enjoy time with my sons honestly made the quality of my work better and the time I spent focusing on studying more efficient.” Henderson also credits her family and friends with helping her succeed in the UF DBA program. “I was very fortunate to have a village that helped support me through the program, and I honestly wouldn’t have made it through without their help,” she said. “My husband, parents, sisters, friends and employers rallied around my schedule and were always willing to be there to help me as I needed it, especially when it came to work obligations that conflicted with my DBA studies or childcare help while I worked on assignments/traveled to residency weekends.” For others interested in pursuing a DBA while continuing to work and raise a family, Henderson said communicating the time requirements of the program is essential. “I would suggest to communicate with everyone involved in your lives the time commitment this program takes and plan accordingly, especially if you are currently employed/have children at home,” she said. “I found it most useful to ensure that I included ample research time as part of my weekly schedule, which becomes intense as job and family obligations happen as well.  Planning is key!” Thanks to her planning and family support, Henderson completed her DBA in August 2018 and she couldn’t be more thrilled with her experience. “The amount of skill and knowledge I came out of the DBA program with is immeasurable,” she said. “Being exposed to high quality research and learning research methodology from top researchers in the country really sets this program a part from any other program available.  The training and insight the faculty in this program provide has been invaluable to my journey and they have all played critical roles in my growth and development as a researcher and educator.”

Interested in learning how you can advance your career with a Doctor of Business Administration from the UF Warrington College of Business? Read more about the Doctor of Business Administration program and its benefits here.