Thousands of Iowa undergraduates have learned financial and managerial accounting with the help of teaching assistants, who are students themselves—studying to earn their Master of Accountancy (MAc) degree—while they teach. Being a TA is one of the best experiential learning opportunities available at Tippie and TAs are one of our greatest assets in training future accountants. Inspiring students in introductory accounting classes is no easy feat—unlike marketing, accounting does not have cool commercials!
The success of Iowa accounting TAs involves a combination of key attributes, much like a secret sauce.
INGREDIENT #1: Teaching assistants are relatable mentors for students
When Professor Bradford Hepfer (BBA06/MAc07/PhD16) started as an undergrad, he was initially interested in economics, but wanted to keep an open mind.
“When I took Introduction to Financial Accounting, I was immediately impressed with my TA. Through his instruction, I began having moments where I thought, ‘Not only do I like this, but I’m good at this. Accounting could be my future.’”
INGREDIENT #2: Teaching assistants are enthusiastic about accounting
Jiyun Chong (BBA19/MAc20)’s journey from student to TA to CPA also started by enrolling in Financial Accounting.
“I took it the second semester of my freshman year, even though I’d heard it was a difficult class,” Chong said. “But any worry was quickly surpassed because my TA, Bailey (Heaton) Andreasen (BBA16/MAc17), always did a great job explaining difficult concepts. Her class was a huge highlight because she made accounting digestible; I religiously went to her study sessions and help labs too.”
Because of the overwhelmingly positive experience in Andreasen’s section, Chong later took the leap to become a TA herself in 2020 while she was pursing her Master of Accountancy degree. She is now a senior tax associate with PwC in Chicago, Ill., and uses the expertise in creating clear presentations, public speaking, and working in teams she gained as a TA to excel in her career.
Andreasen went directly from her teaching assistantship to being an audit supervisor with RSM, showing a clear path to industry to all her students. She is now a senior accountant with Farm Bureau Financial Services in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I remember my Financial Accounting TA too!” Andreasen said. “Her name was Tasha (Stamps) Rhamy (BBA13/MAc14). Having her as a TA solidified my plan to major in accounting and eventually, I followed her path into public accounting at the same firm. We are also from the same small town, so knowing it was possible for someone with a similar background gave me confidence to become an accounting major.”
INGREDIENT #3: Teaching assistants are committed to their students’ success
Though Chong had some previous mentoring and tutoring experience, being a TA was her first time in front of a classroom, allowing her to become fully comfortable with public speaking and speaking from a place of authority—a skill that helps her to this day.
“Being a TA was the best part of my day, even at 8:30 a.m. three days a week. It was so rewarding because I could see the impact of using different teaching techniques. Not every student learns the same, so it’s important to curate lectures to their needs,” Chong explained.
“I used a lot of example-driven visuals, even props, to illustrate a point. I also organized peer learning, especially pairing students with different skill levels to balance a group.”
INGREDIENT #4: Being a teaching assistant is rewarding
Hepfer was TA for Introduction to Managerial Accounting (now known Managerial Accounting Analytics & Data Visualization) before working at PwC as a tax senior associate. Hepfer describes being a TA as the best possible training for working with clients and colleagues. “Being a TA as a MAc student, I gained confidence in my abilities to explain challenging concepts to my clients and colleagues and to answer question on the spot. It also gave me the wherewithal to admit when I needed to look something up.”
Mark Kloet (BBA09/MAc10), a senior manager in OTC derivatives at the National Futures Association, describes being a TA as one of his most valuable experiences at Tippie. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to be a TA in the moment, but as my career has progressed, my appreciation for this has grown tremendously. The frequency of lessons allowed me to develop my public speaking and presentation skills. Interacting with students required me to create strategies for delivering feedback and conveying complex information using different methods.” And the importance of these skills has only increased as his career has progressed.
Rhamy echos the rewards of being a TA. “I was able to get a jump start on building these skills through my TA position. Growing up, I never would have expected that I would be teaching college students about the fundamentals of financial accounting. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and lead me to realize how rewarding it is to teach others and to be a mentor to future generations of accounting professionals.”
The proportions of the ingredients vary with the individual TAs and their students, like any good sauce. But the outcomes—engaged students, inspired future accountants, and poised, professional TAs makes it a recipe worth passing on.