Paving the way for future women

Alumna of Ferris selected as one of 2014 "Women Who Mean Business"

One of Ferris’ own alumna, Dr. Sarah Nutter, has been selected for Washington Business Journal’s 2014 “Women Who Mean Business.”

Dr. Nutter is currently dean of the school of business and a professor of accounting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. This award, according to, is for “women who have made a difference in their communities, blazed a trail for the rest of us and are leaving a mark on Washington.”

“It’s a great thing for George Mason University, where I am, because it gives them visibility. For me, it was a great honor,” Nutter said of her nomination. “After Ferris, when I started to study for my Ph.D. at Michigan State University, there was only one woman on the faculty. Now that’s changed, but in those days there weren’t that many women in higher education, particularly in the business school. So during the opportunities that I had to go out to the DC metro area, to work for the IRS and then go on to be at the faculty for George Mason really was a time of great change in higher education, and so you did see more and more women getting Ph.D.’s, and being involved in higher ed., and I think that has really continued on to this day.”

Nutter said that a priority of hers has been to serve as a model to women who would serve as dean after her. Prior to her that had been no female deans at GMU and now, since she held the position, there have been four.

As a local to Big Rapids before attending Ferris, Nutter earned her undergrad degree in accounting from FSU. She said that she enjoyed her time at Ferris and found that she took a liking to programs offered by the College of Business.

“When I began in accounting, the department head that was the chair at the time actually asked me if I wanted to go into work at General Motors. They had a program where you did a quarter of school and a quarter of work and then repeat, and that was a pretty established program with Ferris, so I went and did that for a year. Now I learned something- I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. So I came back to Ferris, and he (the department head) asked ‘how about an accounting firm?’ So I went and worked for a small accounting firm down in Saranac, Michigan and did the same thing. I did two quarters, and learned I didn’t want to do that either, but it gave me an opportunity to explore those things at Ferris, in a way that I hadn’t been able to, and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do growing up as a farm kid in Big Rapids.”

From there, Nutter continued on to Michigan State University to earn her MBA in finance. As a result, she ended up landing and interview for the program with the associate dean of the business school at MSU who she was referred to by Ferris’ department chair of accounting.

“Ferris really provided me with the foundation for what I did with the rest of my life. It gave me opportunities to decide what I did and didn’t want to do, and when I found out I didn’t want to do something, they said ‘That’s okay. Here’s another option.’ I wouldn’t have had those opportunities had it not been for Ferris, had it not been located where it was, and had it not been focused on affordable education for students.”

After working overseas in Germany at the Heidelberg campus of the University of Maryland, and working for the IRS, Nutter came to George Mason University.

“It was the next right thing to do. There’re some similarities between Ferris and George Mason. The students that attend Mason are a lot like the students at Ferris, in many respects. The students come from varied backgrounds, and are incredibly diverse. It’s a university that doesn’t measure itself by how selective it is, but by how many students it gives opportunity to. That’s a really important thing about Ferris that I always valued, and what I value about Mason. Ferris values giving people opportunity, and giving them a chance to prove themselves, and that’s also what Mason does. So in one sense, it’s like coming home.”

Nutter said that her advice to current college students would be to make a point of “failing early and often.”

“What I mean by that is, don’t wait until you’re a senior to jump out there.” Nutter said, in conclusion to her story. “Look for all the opportunities around you to do internships, to do volunteer work in your field, to do an externship, to find a way to make a connection into the real world. Take every single opportunity you have in college to do things like that. It is by taking those kinds of chances that you will set yourself up for the best future you can. Think about not only getting a job, but creating a job. Take the opportunity to learn about other cultures and other places, the world is not an insular place. It’s not going to work today to stay on your little island. The island is the globe, so if you have an opportunity to take an overseas study program, do it. It’ll change your life. If you have the opportunity to do an internship, do it. It’ll change your life.”