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Derek Schwabedissen

Accounting 2016, MAcc 2017 | Accountant, Cooper Norman

Heading east from the city of Twin Falls, Idaho the land quickly turns from a growing downtown to the vast fields and industrious buildings of various factories and production facilities. The serene country roads ebb and flow over the graceful hills dotted with cattle, rows of feed corn, and wheat ready for harvest. Coming up over a hill the community of Kimberly sits below, nestled into a bed of green trees and new and old construction among the golden and lush landscape of the farms.

Off one of these roads, parked right at the edge of the local golf course is the Schwabedissen family’s home. Growing up, Derek, the fourth of five children, spent a lot of time working among these fields. Starting in eighth grade, Derek worked in a nearby hog farm, later driving truck for some of the local farmers.

Photo: Derek discussing hay prices with one of the farmers living down the street from his childhood home in Kimberly, Idaho.

“I have a lot of really good memories related to the agriculture industry,” Derek explained. “That’s my niche, that’s where I really thrive.”

As a senior in high school Derek had established good repour in the farming community and a potentially sustainable job as a truck driver for one of the properties. But, like many of his peers, Derek felt the pressure to attend college from both his parents and the community.

“I wasn’t sure that college would yield a better job than what I had at the time, I felt like I could just go on driving truck and working for the farmers in Kimberly.” So, for his senior project, Derek decided to do a little research of his own. “I did some cost-benefit analyses and found that typically, yes, a college education is worth it.” But Derek still felt unsure of where his path would lie as a college student. “I struggled a lot with knowing what I wanted to do.”

“In my parent’s world, you found the most secure career option and you went with that,” Derek said that his parents did not have a college education but wanted the best and most stable future for their children. “So, for them, healthcare was it. Everyone needs doctors, everybody needs prescriptions- there was no risk.”

Photo: Derek began his education at Idaho State pursuing pharmacy. 

“I wasn’t sure that college would yield a better job than what I had at the time, I felt like I could just go on driving truck and working for the farmers in Kimberly.” So, for his senior project, Derek decided to do a little research of his own. “I did some cost-benefit analyses and found that typically, yes, a college education is worth it.” But Derek still felt unsure of where his path would lie as a college student. “I struggled a lot with knowing what I wanted to do.”

“In my parent’s world, you found the most secure career option and you went with that,” Derek said that his parents did not have a college education but wanted the best and most stable future for their children. “So, for them, healthcare was it. Everyone needs doctors, everybody needs prescriptions- there was no risk.”

While taking some general education courses in the College of Business, Derek was approached by accounting professor, Dr. Dawn Konicek. “She said- you know, you really have an aptitude for this, you should switch to accounting.”

Feeling like business was where he truly belonged, Derek made the tough decision to divert from the path his parents had envisioned for him. “My parents were very disappointed when I switched to the College of Business, my mom was borderline devastated. To my parents, business was where you went to lose. Their thoughts were- well, good luck finding a job.” But for Derek, the uncertainty of knowing where his future would lie had finally been revealed.

“The biggest thing for me, once I switched, was the personal growth,” Derek said he went from feeling lost to coming out of his shell and really flourishing. As a College of Business accounting student, Derek began to join numerous organizations and participate in a variety of experiential learning opportunities.

“My involvement pushed my own personal limits and really forced me to grow.” As a student, Derek participated in the Beta Alpha Psi accounting fraternity, competing in national competitions as part of the organization. He gained hands-on experience preparing taxes as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. And, as a student in the Master of Accountancy program, Derek was selected among an elite group of students to compete in the International Collegiate Business Strategy Competition.

Photo: Accounting professor Michele O'Brien-Rose, Derek, and accounting professor Dr. Dawn Konicek at Derek's graduation.

“The College of Business really facilitated and fostered an environment and relationships that went far beyond my four-year degree.” Derek explained that without the personal support from his professors at the College, he would not have found where he was meant to be.

“Finally getting into something that fit, made a world of difference.”

Today, Derek resides close to his hometown in Twin Falls where he works for the largest Idaho-based accounting firm, Cooper Norman. “I’m six years out of school and within a year or two of gaining full partnership with the firm.”

As a tax accountant, Derek now has the opportunity to utilize his skillset to help others in the industry where he thrives most, agriculture. “At Cooper Norman, my main client-base is ag and dairy.” He also returns to the College of Business twice a week to teach as an adjunct faculty member in the accounting department.

“As a College of Business student, I was very fortunate to have the professor group I did. They really helped me identify what I am good at. This is probably the happiest I have been in my life.”

“Having job security is really about knowing who you are and what you’re good at.”