Debbie Tanju, Ph.D., always knew she would teach. Her father was a teacher, and she began tutoring other children when she was a child herself in grade school. “It was only natural I would wind up in the classroom,” she says.
|Debbie Tanju, who teaches financial accounting and internal auditing, also coordinates the Accounting department’s student internship program. Since 1988, she has given thousands of UAB students a head start in their careers. |
But not the grade-school classroom.
“I tried grade school for one week back when I was in college,” she says. “I saw pretty quickly that was not going to work for me. Wow. It really takes a special person to handle K-12. I admire those teachers so much.”
But chances are Tanju could have excelled in elementary education at the same level she has at UAB, where her honors include selection as the 2007 Outstanding Accounting Educator of the Year by the Alabama Society of CPAs this past month.
Tanju, who teaches financial accounting and internal auditing, also coordinates the department’s student internship program. Since 1988, she has given thousands of UAB students a head start in their careers, says Frank Messina, D.B.A., chair of Accounting & Information Systems.
“Debbie has built a strong reputation for our accounting program through her efforts with the internship program,” Messina says. “Every company and CPA firm equates UAB’s accounting program with a face, and that face is Debbie Tanju.”
Tanju says she thoroughly enjoys mentoring students and helping them decide the area of accounting they best are suited to pursue.
“Some are better suited for tax while others are a better fit for internal auditing, external auditing or corporate or governmental accounting,” she says. “I try to be their cheerleader and help them prepare for their interviews.”
Those interviews include internships and first jobs that lead to successful careers. Tanju may work with as many as 100 students a year in their searches for internships or career accounting positions.
Many students now tackle two internships — one in the summer and another the following spring. For many the hope is that internships will result in job offers. That’s when her job is most exciting, Tanju says.
“I love getting those e-mails or phone calls from students saying ‘Guess what, I just got offered a position.’”
Tanju says the number of accounting internships greatly increased after the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, an accounting reform and investor protection act affecting public companies. It was passed to reinforce investment confidence and protect investors by improving the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosure following high-profile business failures such as Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing and WorldCom.
“Basically, many companies just didn’t have enough competent accountants with high levels of integrity,” Tanju says. “That’s why we stay on our students to perform at a high level and thoroughly learn the material in their major classes. We don’t need another Enron or WorldCom. Accounting can be very complex and standards-driven. It’s easy to make mistakes, and we want our students to do what is right.
“It’s very, very difficult to keep up,” Tanju says. “And when you add the technology aspect to it as well, it makes things that much more difficult.
“One thing is for sure, accountants are always learning.”