By Deanna C. White
Paige Gee, CPA, never had any doubts that she wanted to pursue a career in accounting. In her opinion, it was nothing short of divine inspiration that led her to her vocation.
Gee, a former high school math teacher from Eagleville, Pennsylvania, realized she had a passion for the profession the minute she started doing bookkeeping for her 1,800-member church congregation.
"I just loved it," Gee said. "I think it was like God said this is what you're going to do."
Gee soon earned her master's degree in accounting and secured a position at KPMG in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was firmly on the fast track to success as a public accountant.
But there was always one thing about her newly chosen profession, Gee said, that gave her pause.
"In all my years as an undergraduate and graduate student, I never had an African-American business professor," Gee said. "As an African-American, it was really discouraging to never see a teacher who could completely relate to my experience. It makes you feel alone. It makes you wonder 'do I want to fight this fight by myself for the rest of my life?'."
That's why today, Gee said, she is pursuing her latest dream. She will become a college accounting professor and a much-needed role model for minority students pursuing the degree.
Gee, who will earn her PhD in accounting from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is just one of twenty accounting doctoral students who were selected as recipients of the AICPA Fellowship award for the 2011‒2012 academic year.
The AICPA Foundation awards annual fellowships of $12,000 to full-time minority accounting scholars who demonstrate significant potential to become accounting educators.
"The Fellowship reflects the fact that we feel it is critical for students from all ethnic backgrounds to have a role model and mentor in the classroom to encourage the development of CPAs from diverse backgrounds in the future," said Steven Matzke, senior manager of the AICPA's Accounting Doctoral Scholarship Program.
To qualify for the Fellowship award, recipients must meet the following requirements:
- Have applied to a doctoral program and are awaiting word on acceptance; have been accepted into a doctoral program; or are already matriculated in a doctoral program and pursuing appropriate coursework.
- Have earned a master's degree and/or completed at least three years of full-time experience in the accounting practice.
- Be a minority student of Black or African-American; Hispanic or Latino; or Native American ethnicity.
- Attend school on a full-time basis and plan to remain enrolled full-time until attaining their doctoral degree.
- Agree not to work full-time in a paid position or accept responsibility for teaching more than one course per semester as a teaching assistant, or dedicate more than one quarter of time as a research assistant.
- Be a CPA or plan to pursue the CPA credential.
- Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder).
Gee said, as a divorced mother, having another avenue to fund her education was decidedly attractive, but she was mainly drawn to the program because of its connection to the AICPA and its vast resources and prestige.
"When it comes to doing my PhD research, the AICPA can always provide me the information I need, or point me where I need to go, because it does so much research itself," Gee said. "And it's also just great to say 'I'm an AICPA fellow'."
But ultimately, Gee said, the Fellowship appealed to her because it provides every student, from every background, the chance to have a teacher and role model who fully reflects their experience.