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Mahmoud Sabbagh ‘16
Mahmoud Sabbagh ‘16

In 2012, Mahmoud Sabbagh left his home in Damascus, Syria and moved across the globe to Portland, Oregon. He arrived, without knowing English and being unfamiliar with the culture. Regardless, Mahmoud was determined to make a new home in the United States, and take the first step towards citizenship: completing 45 credits at an American university and gaining his CPA license.

Mahmoud enrolled at Portland State University’s School of Business after doing thorough research about local programs. The recommendation from his brother, who had studied electrical engineering at PSU in the 90s, didn’t hurt either. 

Despite his enthusiasm for the University, the first term offered a few hurdles for a student whose first language was not English.

“When I started at the school, I was not able to understand all the subjects and topics as a non-native English speaker. My grades started out very low in the beginning of the program. But then I gained confidence as I realized that most of the instructors were happy to explain the material again and again until I understood the topic well,” said Mahmoud. 

That was a turning point for Mahmoud, which soon translated into a rapid improvement in his grades. Though he worked hard to complete his credits, he acknowledges the support of his Business School instructors. 

His professors were not only patient in coaching him through  a language learning curve, but also broke down complex subjects into digestible formats. For that, he will always be grateful.  

What was your previous experience in the finance industry? 
I worked as an accountant in a trucks and heavy equipment dealership in Damascus for almost three years. My position was focused on preparing and managing the accounts receivables of the company, and participating in the preparation of the financial statements. 

How do you like living, working, and studying in Portland?
Portland is a friendly city. I always feel welcome from everyone at the school and outside of the school. We have nice weather, especially during the summertime when I do all of my outdoor sports.

What is your current position and how long have you worked there?
I’m an associate auditor at TKW Public Accounting Firm. I have been working here for three months. I assist in working on audit jobs with the firm, preparing working papers for the audit seniors, audit managers, and audit partners of the firm to review.

What role did PSU play in helping you obtain this position? 
Graduating from PSU’s School of Business was the main reason I secured a position in a very competitive industry like public accounting. PSU has a strong reputation for providing the best graduates to the accounting market. Also, the program itself covered all the different aspects of the accounting field topics. 

What helped you achieve success in the Accounting program at PSU?
The School of Business advisors helped me a lot, a number of them were able to help me plan a solid strategy to accomplish my goals in passing all my classes while I was a full-time student at PSU, and working as an accountant.

Professor Elizabeth Almer gave me inspiration and perspective to achieve my goals in getting a public accounting job. She gave me the best start towards passing the CPA exams. She provided her knowledge of Portland’s accounting market along with other valuable industry advice, which helped improve my confidence and allowed me to secure a job in a public accounting firm in Portland. 

What are your future career goals?
I would like to become a CPA, and gain more experience in the auditing and accounting field. My ultimate goal is being a well-experienced professional who would be able to make an effective impact anyhwere I go.

How do you envision yourself applying the business expertise you gained in the program now that you have graduated? 
I will provide to the business market a reliable, knowledgeable, energetic, highly ethical individual. I will utilize my expertise to build a well-trusted reputation to improve and serve the community and the people.