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Accountant perseveres, achieves master’s degree

As a WSU staff member, Greg Fehrs paid just $5 per class to earn his master’s degree in accounting at WSU, but the price wasn’t his only motivation. Another unlikely stimulus was his high school guidance counselor, who said Fehrs likely wouldn’t succeed in college.

With less-than-average high school grades and ACT scores, the deck seemed stacked against Fehrs. But he believes nothing can account for effort and perseverance.

“I’m the type of person to take that advice and say ‘watch me,’” Fehrs said. “It’s the thing that’s pushed me to keep going in tough times.”

Fehrs graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in accounting about 20 years ago. In 2001, he decided to earn his master’s in accounting while working full time as program administrative manager in the College of Engineering and Architecture’s Business and Finance Office.

Despite his high school guidance counselor’s doubts, Fehrs will graduate in May with about a 3.9 GPA.

Going back to school was important to Fehrs, not just because of the increased career opportunities, but because he wanted to see if he could do it.

“It was time well spent — regardless of where it leads,” Fehrs said. “It’s important to keep challenging ourselves; it’s vital to a good life.”

Fehrs said he chose to return to graduate school so he could stay up-to-date on rules of accounting, which change constantly.

“I had to bridge a 15- to 17-year gap to get up to speed,” Fehrs said. “Ninety-five percent of my classmates just got done with their undergraduate work. I wanted an update, to bring myself into the current requirements of the profession.”

Professors treat Fehrs like every other student in the accounting master’s program, he said.

“Just because I’m older, I don’t see where they treat me differently,” Fehrs said. “It’s a program with integrity, which is what you want to be involved with.”

Fehrs said the cornerstone of the WSU Master of Accounting program is an emphasis on financial and tax analysis coupled with writing skills — something Fehrs considers to be his biggest challenge. In his quest to be brief yet thorough in his writing, it is sometimes difficult to find the most effective way to say what he really wants to say.

“Is it scary [to do things that challenge you]? Yeah,” Fehrs said. “But that doesn’t mean you don’t do it. In fact, we should do it because it is difficult, since that is the only place where growth can be experienced.”

Fehrs said the College of Engineering and Architecture, especially Fehrs’ supervisor, Michael Cook , WSU area finance administrative officer, has been supportive and accommodating of Fehrs’ schedule. Since most graduate-level classes are only offered in one section, Fehrs’ schedule has minimal flexibility. His employers allow him to attend classes in the middle of the day, with the expectation that he will make up the time to get his job done.

“Of all the units on campus,” Fehrs said, “the College of Engineering and Architecture is one of the best — if not the best — in terms of employee growth. It allows people to pursue what they want to pursue.”

Fehrs did not need the support of his high school guidance counselor. Instead, he found support from his coworkers, professors, friends, family and himself. And as he grasps his diploma on May 6, he will have succeeded.

“If you believe in yourself and are willing to do the work, you can pull anything off really,” Fehrs said. “That’s the bottom line.”

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