Get To Know: Tracy Hilpert, Lecturer

With the fall term coming up, our community is getting ready to return to campus, and so it is a great time to be introduced (or re-introduced) to some of our faculty and staff! Candid, enlightening, serious, and not-so-serious, our Q&A series allows the personalities of the faculty and staff members who make up the SAF community to shine.

First up! Tracy Hilpert, Lecturer of Managerial Accounting.

What hobby have you picked up while working remotely?

Not a hobby per se, but early in the pandemic we added a puppy to our family, so much of my time was spent training and transitioning her into our home. This was our second dog as a family and so we thought we knew what we were doing. But Finch (our new dog) had other plans. She is high energy and very excited when she sees other people and dogs.

Let’s just say it’s a work in progress.

Tracy, and dogs

Fall 2021 will look and feel different than previous years - what advice do you have for students who are just starting their studies?

I guess in one sense as a new student, you don’t have anything to compare it to so you may not notice the differences as much. But it may look and feel different than you expected or hoped that it would. My advice would be to embrace the experience – both the good and the frustrating or challenging. It is often through our challenges that we learn and grow the most. Don’t expect perfection. Be ready and willing to make mistakes to learn.

Try new things, make new connections, and get engaged in your studies. If something piques your interest – be curious and try it out. If something frustrates you, ask yourself why, and try to adjust and adapt. Keep your goal of becoming an accounting and finance professional in mind. You won’t like all courses, all instructors, all classmates, all experiences, but they are all a part of building your path to the future you’ve chosen.

Did you have a clear vision for your career path when you were in school and starting in your career? How has that changed?

Yes, at the time. I chose a program that was the most direct route to becoming a CA (now CPA). Once I began working, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to remain in public practice, so it was at the point that I had graduated and passed the UFE (now CFE) that I started to consider other things. Once I became a manager, I found I enjoyed the coaching and people development part of my role. That ultimately led me to teach and eventually to the University of Waterloo.

Can you describe that pathway that led you to SAF and to your current role?

I started to have an interest in teaching. My father knew someone who had worked in industry and had transitioned later in her career to the University of Waterloo. I asked to meet her for coffee to learn more about that transition. That meeting led to another discussion with the then Director of SAF. Later that year a role was posted to work with the Computing and Financial Management (CFM) program. I applied and was successful. I didn’t stay at the university though, spending about 5 years in industry, before returning to another role with SAF that eventually led to where I am now, a lecturer.

My pathway here was not smooth and clear and I know that some people questioned my moves along the way (even me sometimes), but I do believe that a pathway is not something you follow when it comes to your career, it’s one you create.

Looking back, what did you wish you knew as a university student? Would you have changed anything? 

As a university student, I was very focused on getting good grades. My grades were the measure of my success. What I learned when I started working is that the grades and tests end. I, therefore, had to find other ways to feel good about what I was doing and other ways to measure my success. I wish I would have discovered this earlier. I think I would have enjoyed learning more and have developed more ways to measure success for myself, rather than relying on others. I’ve done that now, but it was a struggle at times to feel valuable and productive in the work that I was doing.

Any tips for success you can give to first-year students? Any tips for upper-year or Master's students? 

I work with first-year students both in the class and outside of the class with 2YEx and the Peer Support Learning Champions (PSLC), so my tips are geared to that group of students.

Tip #1 – Get organized. Set yourself up by making a good plan and schedule for your term. This includes a term, a month, and weekly schedules. Don’t just keep track of deadlines. Also, think about how you’ll meet those deadlines and schedule tasks accordingly.

Tip #2 – Don’t cram. Use your schedule to plan your learning so it is chunked out. This will help reinforce the learning and make it stick. You’ll need what you learned again, in a future course or on your co-op job, so it’s not enough to just study for the test.

Tip #3 – Find balance. Your courses are only one part of your SAF experience. Build time in your schedule for other things. At a minimum, take care of yourself with a good amount of sleep, exercise, and healthy eating. You’ll be amazed at what this can do for your performance and capacity to focus when you’re learning.  

Have you adapted how you teach/and or your courses? What can a student expect from one of your lectures? 

The course AFM 111: Professional Pathways and Problem-Solving has had to adapt quite a bit. Our first offering of the course in Fall 2019 was pre-pandemic and entirely in-person. In Fall 2020, it was entirely online and asynchronous. This Fall, it’s blended with both in-person or synchronous learning and asynchronous learning, so it is changing again. AFM 111 is not a lecture-based course. Class time will be used for discussion as a large group and as a small group. Class time will be used for practicing the skills and attributes you’ll be developing in the course. Class time will be used for feedback since developing skills and attributes takes time and practice. My goal would be to talk less than you do in class. That isn’t always the case, but since our course focuses on skills and attributes, rather than knowledge, you’ll learn by doing, not by watching or listening to me.

What is something you’ve missed about the university campus? 

I had a bad habit of grabbing a London Fog from Williams in the Environment 3 building (EV3) when on campus. I found a way to get there from the Hagey Hall building through the tunnels and buildings without having to go outside, which was great when the weather was bad. The pandemic taught me to make better lattes at home, which is good, but I still miss that London Fog. Mine just aren’t the same.

When you feel comfortable, where do you want to travel next? Why? And what’s on your bucket list there? 

I will admit that I don’t feel comfortable yet. So, I think my next trip will likely be within Canada. I have never been to the east coast and so I’ve started doing some research on Newfoundland, PEI, and Nova Scotia. I’ll be celebrating two big milestones next year (birthday and anniversary) so I’m hoping we can celebrate with a trip east. Icebergs are on my bucket list.

Tracy travelling

Now that we will be returning to campus, what are your top spots for grabbing a bite on campus or close to campus? And what do you order at each? 

I love the soup at Liquid Assets Cafe in Hagey Hall which is close to my office so it’s very convenient. Off-campus, my daughter introduced me to the bubble tea at Sweet Dreams Tea Shop in the University Plaza. A warm suggestion for the winter, and a cool suggestion for the summer! 

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