Throwing caution to the wind

by Matt Jardin  |   

Barbara Kahula
(Photo by James Evans / 鶹)

Suspicious ads on Craigslist don’t usually lead to life-changing opportunities, but accounting alumna Barbara Kahula is the exception. 

After graduating from Wasilla High School, Kahula worked in a variety of finance jobs, always leaving for somewhere else after learning all she could from a position. Searching for her next opportunity, she responded to a vague Craigslist ad, ignoring the caution expressed by her husband. Fortunately, the ad led Kahula to a front desk position at accounting firm Laughlin, Ogle & Rodgers, LLC.

This wasn’t Kahula’s first encounter with accounting. In eighth grade, a certified public accountant by the name of Dan Kennedy came to her class to promote the field. She was inspired, excitedly telling her parents after school that she wanted to become a CPA when she grew up. When they cautioned her that it might not be the most interesting career, she tucked it away in the back of her mind.

But after joining the firm, Kahula rediscovered how infinitely interesting accounting actually is.

“Every day is different and I'm always learning something new, and not even just in my field — to be an accountant, you have to learn your clients’ fields. I also love that I get to help people, because not everybody understands the language of accounting. So it’s awesome when I can help somebody get rid of an IRS penalty or lower a tax bill, or even if I can help them understand why they owe taxes in the first place,” she said.

Returning to her passion, Kahula’s boss, John Rodgers, encouraged her to also return to school. A first-generation college student, she intended to only go for the associate degree in accounting, but proceeded to earn her bachelor’s degree in accounting, an occupational endorsement certificate in bookkeeping, and finally a Master of Business Administration.

While at UAA, Kahula was also introduced to like-minded students at the Accounting Club who shared her passion, as well as her mentors, professors Stacia Straley, Soren Orley and Teresa Stephenson. 

“Every day I'm astounded at how great the accounting community is at UAA. The professors go above and beyond to get students excited about accounting, which is a difficult task. I definitely wouldn't be getting my master's degree if I hadn't met so many awesome people in the accounting department,” she said.

Kahula doesn’t plan on taking a break anytime soon. Not only will she begin studying for her CPA exams, but as a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, she plans to give back to the Indigenous communities and organizations that helped her return to school by doing volunteer tax preparation work for low-income individuals in rural 鶹 villages, as well as creating a centralized resource of scholarships available to hopeful Indigenous students like she was. 

“Anything worth doing is not easy and is worth doing correctly. It doesn't matter what you have going on in your life, you can go to school if that’s something you desire. There’s help out there if you don't have the finances or even the familial support, and I want to serve the Indigenous community the same way they helped me and with the degree they got me,” she said.

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