Four Gies students sit around a table, working in collaboration

Gies News and Events

Those who can, teach: bringing real-world experience, right to the front of the class

Oct 23, 2020, 08:35 AM by Aaron Bennett
Sue Pachera is a clinical assistant professor of accountancy. Prior to joining Gies, Sue served as director of accounting policy and research at Exelon for nearly 12 years and spent more than 15 years as an auditor at Deloitte.

From auditing clients like Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley for Deloitte to guiding accounting policy for one of the country’s largest utility companies, Sue Pachera has had a fascinating career. And she owes much of it to a teacher who inspired her. “Like a lot of other people, I went into accounting because I had a dynamic accounting professor, and it just made it seem like something I could envision myself actually doing,” said Pachera. Now she hopes to return the favor, using her experience to inspire a new generation of accounting leaders at Gies.

Pachera says it wasn’t only a professor who gave her the teaching bug. She also has an uncle and a brother who chose the noble profession. But after graduating with a BA in economics from Albion College, she chose a different path, accepting a job at Deloitte.

It was the start of a long and satisfying career with the firm, which included stints in Detroit, the Czech Republic and finally Chicago, where she currently calls home. It was in Chicago that she eventually made the leap to Exelon, becoming the director of accounting policy and research for the largest regulated utility company in the country with more than $33 billion in annual revenues.

For the next 10 years, she helped guide Exelon’s accounting decisions, working through major mergers, implementing new accounting guidance, and developing the accounting required for significant transactions. That’s where she learned one of the key lessons that she hopes to impart to students at Gies — accounting choices aren’t always cut and dried.

“I think one of the things that surprises people about accounting is how much judgment needs to be applied,” said Pachera. “I want to emphasize that to students and work with them on how to do good research and how to support making those judgments, because there’s a lot of ambiguity. I think it’s a skill to get comfortable working in those ambiguous places and developing a good, consistent rationale for how you make decisions.”

She also hopes to equip her students with solid communication skills. “Being able to communicate clearly with people, understand where they’re coming from and have respect for their viewpoints when they don’t agree with you — I think those are really important skills,” said Pachera.

Pachera will be teaching ACCY 303: Accounting Institutions and Regulation at Gies while also helping develop new materials for the school’s online offerings. “I’m really looking forward to that too,” said Pachera. “Obviously the pandemic is very challenging for higher education, but when you’ve got a program like that that’s designed to be online, I think it’s extremely attractive.”

Pachera says she was drawn to Gies both by its reputation and by all the people she worked with in Chicago who were graduates of the program. That positive impression was reinforced when she visited the school earlier this spring. “I really liked the atmosphere on campus and the energy in the accounting department,” said Pachera, adding that she was “blown away” by the welcome she received from the faculty.  In the end, she said her decision to join Gies wasn’t a difficult one. “When you have the chance to be part of a program of that caliber, it’s a no-brainer.”