|2001 October - Vol.1 No.1||Law students publication, University of Alberta, Canada|
Introducing Professor Chris Sprysak
By: Chris McKay (3L)
Q: First of all, tell me a little bit about the path that brought you to teaching here?
A: I received an Undergraduate degree in Business in 1992 with a Major in Accounting. I Articled at Price Waterhouse and completed my C.A. I returned to university in 1995 to attend Law School. Following graduation in 1998, I articled with and worked for the firm of Felesky Flynn. During that period, I also taught Corporate Tax as a sessional instructor. I quit my job there in May of this year, and traveled in Europe over the summer. I started in London, backpacking and hostelling, and ended in Berlin. In all, I visited 10 countries.
Q: Why quit a lucrative practice at this time?
A: I always enjoyed teaching. Also, it runs in the family. My Mom and Dad are both teachers. Further, I had taught before now. I was looking for some more balance in life, more flexibility and freedom.
Q: What are you teaching?
Company and Tax, next term I will be teaching Estate Planning, and Corporate Tax.
Q: How is the year going so far?
A: Really well. People are laughing at my jokes. It is a lot of work but it doesnt seem like it. Its very exciting. I am always pumped when I come out of class. So far it has been a good change.
Q: Anything different than what you expected?
A: The fact that I have done some teaching before, gave me a good idea what to expect. As far as teaching goes, there is a large degree of freedom, but outside of the classroom, the strong bureaucracy here on the fourth floor makes it sometimes difficult to get things accomplished. Finally, the one-ply toilet paper in the washroom has been the biggest adjustment so far.
Q: What interests do you have outside?
A: I am very active. I love the outdoors. I enjoy running and hiking. I also love golfing.
Q: So, what is your handicap?
A: [Professor Sprysak, owing to his European vacation and lack of playing and practice time this summer, was not willing to share his handicap.]
Q: Squash also?
A: Yes, in fact I am starting a squash ladder over the winter, open to all comers. I hope to have a few beginner sessions to explain the rules and talk about strategy and I would like to also perhaps have a tournament at some point.
Q: What do you hope to bring to the table as a new professor?
A: Well, I have worked for 6 years, including articling, practicing law and accounting. I have worked with great practitioners, and so I feel I have a good practical knowledge of the areas of the law which I am teaching. I hope that I bring energy and enthusiasm to the learning process and to the university. I believe I am fairly thorough and comprehensive. Having only graduated three years ago, I believe I still understand where the students are coming from in terms of challenges and problems. I think I work hard at explaining difficult concepts in a simple fashion, for clarity. Hopefully I will come to be a breath of fresh air. I see this also as a learning opportunity for me. I know I will make lots of mistakes, but that is all part of the learning process. Next year, in addition to teaching, I hope to begin working towards an LLM with a Tax Specialty.
Q: Any fears taking this job?
A: How would I survive on so little money. I am not very scared about teaching, but just concerned whether this was the right move to make because I was giving up a lot of earning potential. I am the type of person that likes to be where the action is and teaching is not so much the center of the action. I am also worried about getting too isolated from downtown, and becoming institutionalized into an ivory tower mentality.
Q: Have the students changed since way back in 1998?
A: You get such a range of students here, from many different backgrounds. That is a big part of what makes this place unique. People are always competitive, no matter what year. But generally I think most years share many similar characteristics.
Q: In your life, who do you look up to?
I admire a lot of different qualities. I admire people with a passion for what they do and for living life. One of the reasons I got into law was to stick up for the little guy, so I think highly of that. I admire people who help others without gain, such as Mother Theresa. I especially look up to people who can keep their sense of humor when things are tense or stressful.
Q: What was your favorite class in law school?
A: Each class and each professor offered something unique and interesting.
[This is clearly the p.c. answer. What this really means is none of them were particularly interesting or challenging.]
Q: What changes would you like to see here?
A: 1) More interaction between the "4th" floor and the students. There still is, in a lot of cases, a real barrier. More activities with greater participation across the board. I think this is a very good place; there are a lot of good student groups. Personally, I look forward to getting involved in the Law Show this year.
2) It would be nicer if there were more professors on staff and more money for research. I think we need to do a better job of promoting the fact that we are an elite school. I think we could benefit a lot more from having more interaction with the legal community and hopefully more support as well, such a movement is well-developed in the Business Faculty.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
A: Hopefully teaching full time, well on my way to being a tenured professor, living life to the fullest.
Q: Any advice to give to the students?
A: I think it is important to take advantage the fact that you are a full time student. Get the most out of the law school experience. This is one of the few times you can ask legal questions and not have to pay for the answer. I think it is important to learn as much as you can, but be involved, go out to hear speakers, get involved in activities. It is a significant investment in your life. Make it fun because otherwise it can be very boring. It is important to have a good attitude, but also be true to yourself with respect to what areas of the law interest you or dont. It is important to be happy and passionate about life, outside of school, and if you dont like what you are doing, have the courage to get out and try something else. It is also important to realize that a legal background it imminently useful. Dont be afraid to use your law degree for something other than practicing law. A concern for me going back to law was the public image that we are all money grubbing, competitive, win-at-all-costs people. Perhaps we need to change the public perception in that area.
Q: Anything else to add?
A: I want to work hard and have fun this year!!!
Professor Sprysak invites any students to drop by his office anytime.
© 2001 Chris McKay