Susan Thibodeaux, ’85 has been named the 2022 Accounting Alumnus of the Year in the Carlos Alvarez College of Business at UTSA. Thibodeaux is a managing director in EY’s Oil and Gas Center in Houston.
With an illustrious career as a tax professional in public accounting, she worked at both KPMG and Arthur Andersen before joining EY in 1998. In her role at EY, she interacts closely with clients on planning, provisions, forecasts, tax returns and income tax audits and spends a significant amount of time on training and teaching internal and external courses and conferences.
Despite her longstanding career in accounting, Thibodeaux began her studies at UTSA focused on something else–computers. Realizing that she would rather use computers than program them, she entered the college’s data systems program that was offered at that time. While taking an intermediate accounting course she soon discovered that while others struggled trying to understand the subject, it came naturally for her.
“I saw it as a sign that I should focus on accounting,” said Thibodeaux, who serves on EY’s national oil and gas tax team. “I chose to concentrate in tax because I like solving problems.” Thirty years later, it’s clear that was the right path for her.
An Army brat, Thibodeaux chose UTSA because she wanted to live in San Antonio with her father. While a student she became a charter member of Beta Alpha Psi, an accounting honor society, and participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Graduating with a B.B.A. with concentrations in both accounting and data systems, she credits UTSA with helping launch her career.
“I’m forever grateful to UTSA’s Career Center for lining up interviews that enabled me to land my first job,” she said. “UTSA opened doors that I would have had to beat down myself.”
Reengaging again with UTSA, she met with accounting business students and was inspired to start her own accounting scholarship to give back to students in need, something that she knows about firsthand. Working 30 hours a week, she was thankful for the scholarship support that she received.
“It’s amazing to get to see the students, and how energized and excited they are to be in school,” she said. “They are all hard workers. Most of them have jobs in addition to their schoolwork, and they are very involved in activities. It is inspiring to see their drive.”
In addition to her UTSA degree, Thibodeaux also earned a master’s in science degree in accounting with a focus on taxation from Texas A&M University. Active professionally and personally, she is a member of the American Institute of CPAs and the Texas Society of CPAs. She also volunteers with her church as well as with local elementary schools.
“Throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to work with really smart colleagues,” said Thibodeaux. “Being able to work with the best and the brightest at top firms has been amazing. The relationships, you build with your coworkers and clients are invaluable.”
Since entering the field in 1985, Thibodeaux has witnessed enormous change in the accounting industry. “Computers have revolutionized the industry,” she said. “We all have online research tools that we use now, so research is easier. Also, the way that we receive information electronically from clients has removed the tedious nature of data entry.”
She also found that the world has become smaller now, and worldwide she can connect with individuals using technology to share ideas and ask questions.
Upon receiving her award, Thibodeaux shared some advice with incoming graduate accounting students on how to succeed in the field of accounting. She encouraged students to network, to give their best to every project, to toot their own horn and to treat their career like a marathon, not a sprint.
“If you don’t say no once in a while, you’re going to burn yourself out,” she said. “I wish I would have learned earlier in my career that it is okay to say no in the right way.”
Reflecting on her career as she approaches retirement, Thibodeaux recognizes the value of her UTSA education. “I would stack up my education at UTSA against any of the big schools. We had smaller classes, and we received more attention from the professors who were actively involved in our education. They pushed us, and I felt well prepared when I entered the workforce.”
The Outstanding Accounting Alumnus of the Year Award recognizes the accomplishments of UTSA accounting alumni. Selected by faculty and their peers, honorees are chosen for not only their professional accomplishments, but also their commitment and continued support to the department, college and university.