Susan Rogers of Access Group (CFO of the Year Finalist, Nonprofit)

In 1984, Susan Rogers moved from Daytona Beach, Fla., to Little Rock and started working for Ferguson Cobb & Associates. She was an accountant for that company for more than five years.

“I have always been a detail-oriented person,” she said. She learned in those years “that I’m good at taking a mess and turning it into something that makes sense. They say accounting is a language; it’s being able to translate that language for others, for their benefit, rather than talking to them in our lingo.”

Soon Rogers ran into a problem: She didn’t have a college degree, and without certification her career paths were limited. “I knew if I did not go on to school to get my credentials, I would not be able to take control of my career going forward,” she said.

So she started attending classes at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock as a nontraditional student. “I had the opportunity to return to school as a full-time student with the help of encouragement from my family and scholarships,” she said. “No one in my family had received a college degree, but I wanted to do it.”

Throughout her studies she worked part time in accounting. She graduated from UALR in 1994, and was hired by Hudson Cisne & Co. in Little Rock, then worked as a private consultant, then spent several years each in business management and investment management.

After that, she was looking for a change of pace.

“I had been involved with so many nonprofits, fundraisers, boards, things like that, that I thought I could actually make a real difference if I went to work for a nonprofit,” she said. “This late in my career, I decided that’s what I wanted to do. There’s a lot of money to be made out there, and you can’t necessarily make it in the nonprofit world, but there are things more important than money.”

Last year she became controller of Access Group Inc., a Little Rock nonprofit that works with developmentally challenged children.

Through her career, Rogers said, she always valued perseverance.

“You know, there are just days when all of us don’t want to go anymore,” she said. “We don’t want to do it, but we get up and we do and we go. This last year and a half has been challenging. Some days it would be easy for me to return to public accounting, or maybe to investment management services.”

But her attitude led her to Access Group, she said, and she plans to stay there.

“It has taken perseverance to come to this point in my life,” she said, “finding a way to make things better for the nonprofit and the children they serve. I don’t give up.”