The introduction to accounting labs in DePaul’s School of Accountancy & MIS provide students in Accountancy 101 courses an opportunity to practice introductory accounting concepts during a supplemental hour of instruction once a week. But these sessions, which began in 2009, benefit more than just the undergraduate business majors who must attend them. They provide the instructors—who are graduate teaching assistants (TAs)—an opportunity to learn and develop themselves professionally.
Each year, four to five TAs are hired and trained in the school to collectively lead 20 lab sessions throughout the year, under the supervision of a faculty coordinator. The TAs each have accounting degrees and are pursuing a master’s degree in taxation or audit and advisory services. They develop and conduct lesson plans, provide support, and sometimes end up becoming mentors to the students they see week to week.
“I was drawn to the TA position because I wanted to do something meaningful and give back,” says Derek Ware (BUS ’18, MST ’19), who was a TA in 2018-19. “It ended up being a much more meaningful experience on both a personal and professional level.”
Ware graduated with a Master of Science in taxation in June 2019 and is getting ready to start a position at EY in January doing taxes and financial services. He attributes his success in the EY interview process to being a TA.
“It was very valuable to have that on my résumé and gave me something to talk about during my interview,” he says. “The recruiters were impressed and interested to learn about my TA experience, but the position also helped me by reinforcing my knowledge and understanding of accounting. This proved useful when I was studying for my CPA, and I know it will be useful as I begin my career,” he says.
For Ware, being a TA also provided an immersive experience into the school culture and community. “Being there every week helped me develop stronger relationships with the staff and faculty in the department, which was motivating and inspiring to me. Being around highly educated professionals who are engaged in their work, I got to help Professor Cindy Durtschi in some of her research and case study development, and in turn she became a resource to me whenever I had questions.”
Prima Bautista (BUS ’17, MSAA’ 18), who was a TA at the same time as Ware, agrees. “It really shaped my DePaul experience being able to engage with the professors and staff members in the department as a TA. The relationships I developed became a supportive net for me during my time there. Even connecting with the other TAs was valuable. We studied for the CPA together and pushed each other to be better.”
Today, Bautista is a senior tax associate at Grant Thornton. She applies many of the skills she learned as a TA to her current role, she says. “It helped me come out of my shell and develop my public speaking skills. Being the authority in a room where students are looking to you for answers boosts your confidence and helps you practice being in a position of leadership.”
“That was one of my biggest takeaways from being a TA,” adds Dion Meggs (BUS ’12, MSAA ’18), another former TA. “I got to develop the soft skills you may not get a chance to develop early on in your career, like leading and presenting and breaking down complex information to people in a way they can understand.” Meggs is currently a forensic accounting senior at Crowe.
“And I’m still in touch with many of the faculty and staff at the school,” continues Meggs. “I’ve had professors reach out to me when they’ve needed volunteers for a project or a speaker for their class, and I’ve even stayed in touch with some students that I’ve taught. It feels good to still be connected because it helps build your professional network. I have people to call on as a resource, and now that I’m in my career, I find myself being a resource and mentor to others as well.”
Braylen Stevens is one student Meggs has taught and kept in touch with since graduating from DePaul. An undergraduate accounting major, Stevens is the DePaul chapter president of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) and a new entrepreneur, having started a clothing line business in 2018. He also was an intern at EY last summer.
“It’s gratifying to see someone who had little to no knowledge in a subject suddenly apply themselves and go further,” says Meggs. “Seeing Braylen’s progression from where he started to the things he’s doing now, and feeling that I played a small role in his growth, is very rewarding.”
By Nadia Alfadel Coloma | Photos by Kathy Hillegonds