Professor Lacy Willis has over ten years of experience in public accounting at a large local accounting firm in Orange County, CA. During that time, she assisted privately held companies, government entities, and not-for-profit entities in various functions including financial reporting, bookkeeping, preparation of audits, reviews and compilations, tax preparation, management advisory and forensic accounting services.

Ms. Willis obtained her Certified Public Accounting license in 2005 and her Certified Fraud Examiner certification in 2008.

She holds a Juris Doctor degree with an emphasis in business law from Chapman University Fowler School of Law and Bachelor of Science degrees in both Accounting and Business Administration from Chapman University.

She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, California Society of CPA’s, and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

Can you tell me more about your background and how you ended up at Chapman University’s George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics?

I guess I first ended up here as an undergraduate student. I graduated with a BS in Accounting and Business Administration in 2005 and went to work at an accounting firm, White Nelson Diehl Evans, LLP, which has since been acquired by CLA. I passed my CPA exam in 2006 and worked in the audit & assurance department there.

By 2008, I was back here teaching part time, one to two classes in the evenings after work. I taught primarily Intro to Financial Accounting and then eventually Auditing. I taught part-time from 2008 – 2014 when I eventually transitioned over to teaching at Chapman full-time and left the accounting firm. Also, in 2014, I started law school at the Fowler School of Law, finishing that up in 2018 and passed the bar exam in 2019. So you can say I have “been” at Chapman in some capacity in 17 of the last 20 years.

What is your favorite part of your job now?

Definitely the students. It is so nice to have everyone back in person this year. I missed them. I missed their energy and their excitement (yes, even about accounting). Being with students is the best part of the job. Interacting, getting to know them, and feeling like you may be a small part of their future success. That is what makes the job worth it.

What advice do you have for students on how to stand out in the business world?

This is a really weird time. We are all trying to figure out what the new “normal” is in the business world going forward. When many students are starting their jobs in a remote environment, it seems more important than ever to really “show up.” It is so easy to get stuck in your own world while things are remote, and you are not spending much time in an office with other people. But business is all about making connections and relationships with people. So being engaged with your employer and your co-workers is more important than ever so you can start building those relationships and connections now. They will only help as you get further into your career. I think those people that will stand out and really succeed in the next five to ten years are the ones who put in the work to be engaged and make connections even in this very unusual working environment.

It is also really hard to learn and be trained remotely. So putting in the extra effort in learning and asking questions will help later on down the line.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career -or- what goal are you working toward?

There have been a lot of big accomplishments along the way, but I guess I am most proud of my certifications and the time and effort that I put in to getting all of them. I am also excited about continuing to learn even while I am teaching and improving my skills. I am proud of myself for never stopping learning and never being complacent where I am at.

What is one fun or interesting fact about you?

I don’t know if any of these are funny or interesting, you decide…

  • I have broken my arm(s) four times. Three on one arm and one on the other;
  • My dog’s name is Addie and her birthday is on tax day, which is funny because my husband and I are both accountants;
  • I enjoy scuba diving.

Any parting thoughts you would like to share with us?

I guess I am just really excited about the moves that women have been making in business. And I am hopeful for what things will look like post-pandemic. I hope we will come out of this pandemic with a new insight on things like work-life balance, what really motivates people to improve and succeed, and a re-evaluation of goals. Many businesses are making changes for the better of their employees and I would love to see this trend continue. Improving work-life balance and an increased focus on diversity in the workplace will help women get to the next level and I am excited to see that!

Some final facts that Ms. Willis didn’t share about herself but also attribute to how incredible she is:

Professor Lacy Willis is also a mom of two and has a hidden skill as a very talented singer. You may have heard Ms. Willis singing the national anthem at previous Argyros School commencement ceremonies over the years!