Cover Story

Catherine West, CPA

Age 33. Professor/Tax Manager, UMass Amherst and Meyers Bros. Kalicka

Catherine West recently returned from an intriguing junket to Ireland.

She was there with 23 business students from UMass, where she teaches Accounting, as part of an ambitious program called Business Development and Conflict Resolution — Ireland, a 10-day exercise designed to provide an education in that island nation’s business, culture, and trade.

And that wasn’t the first time West’s passport was put to use this year. In January, she made her fifth trip to the West African nation of Ghana. She was there with 26 UMass business students who taught basic business skills to students during the day, and held seminars on business development at night for residents of the local towns.

In the Ghanian city of Secondi, West has led efforts to create something called the Business and Learning Center, a business school that has taken some time to develop, but is providing her with hard evidence of how a few people can make a big impact.

“It’s very hard to see change and improvement in a developing country because getting funding takes forever,” she explained, referring specifically to efforts to convert an existing school building into the business center. “This year, I was blown away, because the school is almost done. It showed me that a group of people can make a difference in one community, and it reinvigorated me to the point where I’m very excited to keep going back.”

West has been making a difference in a number of ways, through her teaching at UMass and abroad and her work with clients as a CPA, but especially in the community. She’s been a board member at the Academy of Music and Go FIT, is president of the Northampton chapter of Dollars for Scholars, and has served as the primary accountant for several non-profits, including the United Way of Pioneer Valley, Springfield Library and Museums, and the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Summing up her approach to life in general and her community work in particular, West said, “There’s a reason why I’m here, and I need to not waste any of my time.”

Suffice it to say, she hasn’t.