Lazy Chat with Trish Stringer
Written by: Cleo Williams
Photographed by: Dylan Wee
As seen in the October 2018 issue of Lazy Faire magazine
As a professor for first-year accounting, and many other accounting courses, Trish Stringer is a well-known face on campus. However, it’s not just because of her large classes that people recognize her, but due to her teaching skills. This month, Lazy Faire sat down with Trish to talk about her career as a professor and the advice she’d give to current students.
What first inspired you to become a professor?
It’s not my inspiration for life — it wasn’t — because in university, I was a crap student so [becoming a professor] was not my plan. What happened is: I was working as a controller at a company; not a large company — there were four staff that reported to me. One of the staff came up to me and said, “You should teach. I’ve been in classes at school and I never understand what I’m supposed to be doing, but you just have a way such that I understand.” And I’m like, “Well that’s nice.” So, from there, I ended up teaching with the [Edmonton] Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. I was teaching a payroll course, and I taught them a Microsoft Office course. Then CMA Alberta approached me because they were looking to do a session with the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers for the CMA program, which was an 18-week course, one day a week for 8 hours. It would teach accounting that, if you had a university degree but not all the programs you needed, you could still get into the CMA program. I taught for three years between that and also the main course they were teaching in Edmonton on Saturdays. I really liked it, so I looked on the U of A website and found out who was in charge of the accounting department and mailed them my resume and said, “Hey I’d love to teach!” I think about six months later, they contacted me and said, “Someone is going on maternity leave, would you like to come teach?” And it moved on from there.
Through your years as a professor, are there any in-class experiences that really stand out for you?
I’ll say in my first couple of years, students tended to ask me questions that I hadn’t contemplated. So I found it really challenging, like, “Oh! I hadn’t thought of it that way.” And even just the other day in tutorials, someone asked me, “It says this is the shareholder’s interest in the company, what does that mean?” And I’m like, “That’s a good question!” So, [I’ve enjoyed coming] up with the way people are interpreting things when they’re asking a question, and [coming] up with answers and [being] able to explain such that people understand. I’ve had fun with the other things outside teaching. My thing is: I’m always surprised day-to-day with what students do and how much they have to balance in their lives. And in my course, I make them do a lot of work, so I’m usually the one to blame (laughs).
What advice would you have to students who are just entering the business school, or on their way out?
Coming in to business school, it would be, to a certain extent: don’t overthink stuff, but put away the time that’s needed for your classes. I would also say get involved in stuff, because it may get a lot more fun if you’ve got friends to study with. Not just party with, but study with as well. When it comes to further in your career, a lot of times, at university, people tend to get really stressed about stuff. Yes, you want to have really good grades, and you definitely want to pass courses; and to get into the CPA, you have to have a certain grade, but you don’t have to have an A+. So, sometimes, stressing about a course too much actually causes more upset in your life than you need. Do the work, but chill a little bit.
Outside of class, what do you think is the greatest lesson students will learn in their university career?
I think: balance. A little bit of a juggling act, to a certain extent — being able to juggle school life, and I think it’s important that people have a personal life. So, you need to find that balance between the two.