Amy K. Cooper, CPA, CFE, CGMA, MPAcc – 2015 40 Under 40 Honoree
This year’s 40 Under 40 honorees are among the best and brightest talent in the accounting profession. They are all active in the professional community, as well as in their local communities, where many are small business owners and employers.
Sep. 16, 2015
Amy K. Cooper, CPA, CFE, CGMA, MPAcc – 38
University of Alaska Fairbanks
What is the name of one book that has been a great influence to you?
To Kill a Mockingbird.
In what ways have you contributed to your firm/company to make it better?
I love to find opportunities for students to learn outside of the classroom as well as inside the classroom. They are often expected to know what it is like to be a professional as soon as they graduate and enter the accounting world. Yet, there isn’t a degree in professionalism. I have encouraged students to serve in the AICPA Accounting Competition and for the last 3 years, we have had a team make it to the top 15. I was able to get a team together for the past 3 years to travel to Seattle and compete in the Seattle University/KPMG Accounting Case Competition. They were able to compete against their peers from other schools all around the Northwest. I have worked with the School of Management’s Outreach and Development officer to create an etiquette seminar and dinner for accounting and business students. We have partnered with the KPMG office in Anchorage who has sponsored it for the past 5 years.
In what ways do you participate in the professional community to change/improve the accounting profession?
I actively volunteer for the Alaska Society of CPAs and the American Institute of CPAs. I spearheaded the creation of a leadership academy for the Alaska Society of CPAs, based on the AICPA’s Leadership Academy. The mission of the academy is to “help participants discover, sharpen and foster their leadership skills, enabling them to invest more in their own professional development; to engage more in their professional career; and to create more ties to the AKCPA through increased involvement with the Society at all levels.” We will be starting the second class of the AKCPA Leadership Academy and we more than doubled our participation numbers.
I asked the first class to create a project and they established the NextGen committee of the AKCPA that reaches out to those new to being a CPA, whether that is at a student level or someone a couple of years in public accounting. I was just at a social and it was so inspiring to see the students (all of them I had had) mingling with some of the young professionals. I am lucky that I live in a state where participation from young members is encouraged and desired. I serve on the AIPCA E.D.G.E. (Evolve. Distinguish. Grow. Engage) Conference Planning Committee and have had the opportunity to present at the E.D.G.E. conference for the past 3 years.
In what ways do you participate in your local community to help others?
I currently serve on the local hospital Volunteer Services Fund Account Committee and the public radio station, KUAC Friends of KUAC Board of Directors. I served on the board of directors for the Breast Cancer Detection Center, a center whose mission is to promote early detection of breast cancer for all people in Alaska, regardless of the ability to pay, for 6 years. I was Treasurer from 2008 to 2012 and Secretary from 2012-2013. I served as team captain for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life for 3 years and have been a team member for multiple years.
What changes do you foresee in the accounting profession of the near future (3-5 years)?
I think the idea of the traditional office will change into one that is more mobile and flexible. Young CPAs will come into the profession wanting to specialize in more areas than tax or audit. They will also bring with them the desire to contribute to their community and their belief that nothing is impossible.
How do you see yourself participating in shaping the future of the accounting profession?
I am very lucky that I get to work with the future of the accounting profession every day. I teach the first 2 principles of accounting classes and the first intermediate accounting class. Many times, I have students who continue in all 3 of those classes so I have a real opportunity to get to know them, help them figure out what they might want to do, and encourage them to see all the many possibilities an accounting degree offers. I serve as the faculty advisor for the student accounting organization, GAAP (Great Alaska Accounting People) and for the VITA, the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. I see every day the energy and enthusiasm these students have and I’m very excited about the future of the accounting profession.
I have served on the AICPA’s Student Recruitment Committee for the past 2 years and currently serve as the chair of this committee. This committee is devoted to students – the future of this profession – and getting them involved early in the AICPA and the profession.
What is your career philosophy?
Find what you love and be passionate and enthusiastic about it. Smile and try to give more than what you receive. Work hard. I love the quote by Thomas Jefferson –“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more luck I have.”
Describe one person who has been an important mentor to you and how that person helped change your life.
My dad. He worked full-time as a physical therapist, worked a part-time job doing physical therapy home health, and went back to school to get his masters degree-all while his 3 children were in elementary school and younger. My mom worked full-time too so it was not easy for my dad to be in school as well as working 2 jobs. Yet he was always there for us, at basketball or soccer games, at school functions, helping us with our schoolwork – supporting us every way he could. He pushed me to learn about the world around me and embrace differences in others. He showed me the value of hard work, not just for myself but how it can help boost those around me. He taught me there is no point in complaining – a job has to be done so do it and be grateful. Most of all, he showed my brother and sister and me that compassion and kindness toward others is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone.