By Deanna C. White, Correspondent
Tammie Schaefer of St. Louis, Missouri, loved everything about her job as a CPA. Every day she looked forward to working alongside her "bright and motivated" colleagues; the fast-paced, deadline-driven environment; and coaching newer staff members in the subtle nuances of the detailed and technical nature of the work.
But when Schaefer learned about the Accounting Doctoral Scholars (ADS) Program, which was created in conjunction with the AICPA Foundation, she knew it was time to bring her "long-term goal" – earning her PhD in accounting and becoming a college professor – to the forefront of her career.
Today, Schaefer is just one of the twelve "newly minted" PhDs, and the first wave of ADS Program graduates, who are currently teaching their first classes this fall semester on college campuses across the country.
"Teaching had always been a long-term goal of mine that I planned to pursue much later in my career", said Schaefer, who is now an assistant professor at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. "But when I learned about the ADS Program and its goal of addressing the upcoming shortage of accounting faculty, I decided there's no better time than the present to [pursue that dream]."
Schaefer and her eleven cohorts are the first graduating class of more than 110 Accounting Doctoral Scholars, all former audit and tax practitioners with recent public accounting experience, who are pursuing their PhDs in accounting through the ADS Program. The cadre of scholars will stem what the AICPA considers to be an imminent and critical shortage of PhD accounting faculty.
It will also provide a pool of faculty with recent real-world experience in audit and tax. "Having the first Accounting Doctoral Scholars begin teaching undergraduates this fall is a real milestone for both the program and the profession as a whole", said Steve Matzke, director of Faculty and University Initiatives at the AICPA, who has managed the ADS Program since its launch. "While there is still more work to be done, we are confident that the ADS Program will ultimately fulfill its mission of helping secure the future of the profession by incrementally increasing the current number of accounting faculty who hold PhDs."
The ADS Program selected its first group of students to fund in 2008. When the program was created, over 43 percent of the accounting faculty members at US colleges and universities were fifty-five or older, underscoring the need to act quickly to address the impending shortage of accounting faculty on college campuses across the country.
While no longer selecting new candidates, the program represents the most significant commitment ever made to accounting education by the accounting profession. With financial commitments exceeding $17 million – with funding provided by over 120 sponsors, including accounting firms, state CPA societies, the AICPA, and others – the program's goal is to increase the current doctoral pool by 120 PhDs by 2016.
"The ADS Program has added a substantial number of experienced CPAs to the current PhD pool, which ultimately means more CPAs in the classroom preparing the CPAs of tomorrow to enter the profession. These PhDs will help address the capacity issues of accounting enrollments at colleges and universities across the United States and strengthen an already robust pipeline of accounting talent at the undergraduate and graduate levels", said Matzke.
Many of the Accounting Doctoral Scholars say they likely wouldn't have made the transition from CPA to scholar, at least not this early in their careers, if it hadn't been for the impetus and the support provided by the ADS Program.
"During my career in public accounting, I thought about pursuing a PhD multiple times. However, it was the ADS Program that allowed me to put my desire into action while giving me access to valuable resources", said Matthew Erikson, University of Arizona PhD candidate and Accounting Doctoral Scholar.
Denise Hanes, CPA, PhD, said the program provided her the road map and the support network she needed to leave her secure and relatively more lucrative job in the corporate world to push her boundaries in the college classroom.
"I really liked my job [as a CPA], but after four years, I wanted to push myself to try something different. I wanted to broaden my skill set", Hanes said. "I like the university setting and I really like to be able to talk conceptually about issues. That's what pulled me into academics."
All twelve scholars who have completed the program to date have obtained jobs on college campuses. As fledgling teachers, they said they've relied heavily on the support networks they developed during their time in the ADS Program.
"In my first year of teaching, I have relied extensively on the relationships I formed during my time as an ADS student to assist me in transitioning into my new role as an assistant accounting professor", said Hanes, who is now an assistant accounting professor at Villanova University. "My fellow scholars have been an invaluable resource on a daily basis, discussing new questions and challenges that arise."
Schaefer agrees the guidance she has received through the ADS Program has helped her transform her back-burner dream of teaching into a fulfilling new reality - one that enhances the idea of what it means to be a CPA, for her and her students, every day.
"My favorite part of being a teacher is having the lightbulb moments for students – when you see something you have said finally click and they start connecting the dots. I find it very rewarding to hear from students when the pass the CPA exam, land the job they've been hoping for, or check in with me and tell me how much they're loving their new job", Schaefer said. "That's when I know I'm making a difference in the lives of the people I get the opportunity to teach and the profession. It's what keeps me smiling, to know I'm making a difference."
More information about the ADS Program is available online.