Students in the California State University, Northridge graduate taxation program voted and selected Professor Sharyn Fisk as “Outstanding Professor of the Year”.
“Professor Fisk’s systematic approach to tax controversy armed me with the knowledge I needed to confidently and expertly represent my clients in front of the IRS,” said Certified Public Accountant Leslie Sobol, who was in Fisk’s first teaching cohort. “She taught me to structure my analysis of complex civil tax examinations to identify the strongest arguments.”
Having a law and tax career or being a professor of the subject was not Fisk’s plan when she was younger.
In 1989, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from San Diego State University. She specialized in broadcasting.
She began working at news corporations and realized that a journalist career was not for her. With her writing, editing and formatting skills, she pursued editorial jobs. As it turns out, these skills aided her in being successful in law and taxation.
It was Fisk’s husband who introduced her to the prospect of attending law school.
Unbeknownst to her, she began a journey to fulfilling an unknown passion.
“I thought we could attend law school together and become study buddies,” said Fisk with a chuckle. “However, I was accepted into law school and he was not.”
While taking classes at Rutgers University School of Law-Newak, she worked in the school’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. She helped individuals with their tax issues that dealt with all aspects of an individual’s life, such as death, children, marriage and divorce, health, business and employment investments and charitable efforts.
After earning her JD from Rutgers, she earned her LL.M. (Master of Law) in Taxation from New York University in 1998. For the next two years, Fisk clerked for the Honorable Maurice Foley, Judge, U.S. Tax Court.
“Clerking was such a great opportunity at the start of my tax career. I was able to view both sides-the IRS’ and the taxpayers’- on numerous tax issues,” recalls Fisk. “Judge Foley was also such a great mentor who provided me with lessons I use to this day.”
As a principal at Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, she specializes in civil and criminal tax controversies and tax litigation.
After working for six years at the firm, Fisk decided she wanted to share her knowledge with university students interested in a taxation career. She co-taught with another associate from her firm.
She chose to teach at CSUN due to the conveniently designed Masters of Taxation program.
"Professor Fisk is the jewel of the MST program,” said Frank Mantovani, a recent graduate of the MST program. “Her expertise and ability to teach Federal Tax Procedure in a way that is both understandable & practical makes her a highly valuable professor. As a skilled speaker and lecturer, she weaves the law, forms and real life experiences into a comprehensive and engaging learning experience. The MST Program is lucky to have her."
After working as a co-teacher, she was ready to take on her own class. She chose everything from picking the texts, creating real-life assignments to designing a practical final.
“My students tell me they keep a binder of assignments they completed in my class,” said Fisk with a smile. “When they are asked at work to fill out a form or draft up a paper, they refer back to their binder.”
The students’ revelation makes her proud because she wants her class to have a practical approach.
Her students can sense the passion she possesses to teach and aid them in improving their taxation and law skills.
“When she enters the class everyone can feel the energy and that is because she loves teaching,” said Certified Public Accountant Joseph Sedrak, who is a recent graduate of the MST program. “She shared a lot of real cases that she handled in her own business which helped us to understand the material very well.
“One of the great things that I need to mention about Professor Fisk is that she always made herself available to everyone to answer questions, respond to emails and discuss the materials. She is very dedicated to what she does.”
Fisk wants her students to perform tasks accurately that they will be expected to do once in a taxation career.
“I seek to expose my students to real-life procedures, such as power of attorney, making a deposit or requesting abatement of a penalty, in a safe and comfortable classroom setting,” said Fisk. “In the class, you can make mistakes and learn how to fix them. Then in your career, s/he will know how to correctly perform a task for their client.”
Fisk laughs as she recollects that each cohort becomes a close knit group of people. They connect with her on LinkedIn and become resources for each other.
“If they need help I make myself available to aid in any way possible,” said Fisk. “If I see a task that one of my former students can help with I contact them. We stay in touch.”
Her former students possess mutual feelings.
“She is very approachable, accessible and truly helpful,” said Certified Public Accountant Steven Jager, who was in her most recent cohort. “She is a ‘roll up her sleeves’ practitioner and truly understands what we need to learn both academically and conceptually, as well as on a practical level. She engages the class with a mixture of humor, wit and intellect. Professor Fisk brings an authenticity to the classroom which mixes academic rigor with the practical information so vital to her subject matter of Tax Procedure.”