Dr. Aru Rao teaching in a classroom

Professor recognized by American Accounting Association for outstanding mentoring

When it comes to preparing students for careers in accounting, teaching the fundamental skills is just the start. As a teacher and adviser, associate professor Arundhati Rao, Ph.D., makes it a point to help students develop professional etiquette, navigate career paths and build soft skills needed for success.

In recognition of her outstanding commitment to mentoring aspiring accountants throughout her career, Rao received the 2018 KPMG Mentoring Award from the American Accounting Association in August.

The award is given by the organization’s gender issues and work-life balance section to individuals (both professors and practitioners) for demonstrating significant mentoring measured by the levels of achievement of the men and women they’ve mentored.

In her time at TU, Rao has taken students under her wing, coaching them on the nuances of networking and developing professionalism.

“She’s a great mentor because she is encouraging, caring, passionate, empathetic and knowledgeable,” said junior accounting major Minyi Chen. “I’ve learned how to be a constant learner and ambitious leader from her within the past two years.”

Rao also has striven to connect students to mentors working in accounting. During her time as a first year experience adviser, Rao connected each of her pre-accounting major advisees to mentors, most of whom were TU alumni.

Many of her current and former students credit Rao’s guidance as a significant factor in their personal and professional growth.

“I don’t know how to express in words how amazing Dr. Rao is as a person,” said An Tran ’15, a senior auditor at BDO. “She’s my first mentor at TU and my role model. She has always challenged me to strive to be the best in my career as well as other aspects of my life.”

seth gitter writing on a white board in an economics classroom

Professors recognized for outstanding service, teaching, research

Every year, the College of Business and Economics faculty nominates and selects one of their peers for each of three awards for outstanding service, teaching and scholarship. The recipients were announced and recognized at the 16th annual James L. Dunbar Outstanding Graduate and Faculty Recognition Reception on May 24. Learn more about this year’s extraordinary winners. Continue reading “Professors recognized for outstanding service, teaching, research”

Linda ochoa holding a framed portrait of her young son

‘Non-traditional’ students excel with dedication, mentors

Growing up as the oldest of three sisters in a Salvadoran family, Linda Ochoa learned the meaning of hard work and responsibility early in her life.

While raising her son and working full time, Ochoa attended Montgomery College, then transferred to Towson University. She graduates this May with a degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing. A recipient of the James L. Dunbar Memorial Scholarship and the Aramark Working Scholars Endowment Scholarship, she is looking at a bright future that she plans to dedicate to teaching and academic research in the field of marketing.

CBE faculty and staff take pride in serving non-traditional students like Ochoa. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), non-traditional students include (but are not limited to) those who work full time while enrolled, those who have dependents other than a spouse, and those who either do not have a high school diploma or entered college more than a year after they finished high school. In contrast, traditional students include those who are 18 to 22, enroll immediately after high school, attend school full-time, live on campus, and do not have major work or family responsibilities.

“Having these professors who genuinely showed that they believed in me made all the difference. They offered support and became mentors to me.”

Unlike many of their classmates, non-traditional students often face unique challenges.

“The biggest challenge was probably be finding a balance between school and family,” said Ochoa. “Sometimes it felt as if there weren’t enough hours in the day.”

The extra responsibilities non-traditional students have also means they cannot spend as much time on extracurricular activities and interacting with their classmates.

“As much as I wanted to join clubs, it was a challenge, since I usually had to get home to feed my son and help him with his homework,” she said.

At CBE, our faculty try their best to help non-traditional students like Ochoa become well prepared for the next stage of their life.

“TU has an incredible marketing department, and the support of the faculty has truly made my graduation possible,” Ochoa said, adding that professors Veronica Thomas, Pd.D., Plamen Peev, Ph.D., and Dr. Tony Stovall, Ph.D., were instrumental in her success at TU. “Having these professors who genuinely showed that they believed in me made all the difference. They offered support and became mentors to me.”

“Dr. Thomas opened her doors to me even when I was not her student and would offer me counsel and advice,” Ochoa said. “There was one day this past semester when I was having a momentary breakdown about my future and I stopped by her office. I could tell she was busy prepping for a conference, so I told her I would come back. She insisted that I take a moment and stay. It’s as if she knew I needed her in that moment.”

With CBE’s culture of inclusiveness, many students appreciate the experience and perspective of their non-traditional peers.

“[My classmates] could tell that I took my studies seriously. They acknowledged that I was more mature and that only made me a better team member,” Ochoa said. “I think that I met these types of students because TU truly has quality students.”

In addition to the support and resources available from CBE, many other programs are well established at Towson University to help non-traditional students like Ochoa. The Center for Student Diversity sponsors the Mature Students Lunch and Peer Support Group, which meets every month. There are also various scholarship funds available for mature students such as the Charlotte W. Newcombe Endowed Scholarship for Mature Women and Men, the Pathways Scholarship, and the Osher Reentry Scholarship.

Ochoa said that she is very satisfied with her achievements at Towson University and is “proud to be an alumna of such an inclusive university.” She plans to travel with her son for the summer, wanting him to experience new cultures. She is also looking forward to being accepted into a PhD program, where she will seek the training to become a professor of marketing herself and to continue her research.

Feeling confident about her future, Ochoa added, “I feel blessed that I am able to [graduate] not only with a diploma but also with three supportive mentors and excellent faculty and staff that I will keep in touch with.”

By Yongchen Zhao, Ph.D., Department of Economics

This story is a part of the colleges monthly CBE Celebrates Diversity Series, which highlights student, faculty and staff stories from our diverse community.

Chris Eifert

Long-time Economics Department administrative assistant earns award for outstanding service

With 42 years of service to Towson University, Christine (Chris) Eifert has never stopped learning.

“I’ve never been one to stay behind my desk,” she said.

As the administrative assistant II for the Department of Economics, Eifert ensures the smooth and efficient daily operations of the department. But she also actively seeks out ways to improve processes and new opportunities for professional development, earning every certificate offered by TU’s Office of Human Resources, attending seminars on diversity and much more.

“In order to continue to be useful and of service to my department, I have to pursue professional development,” she said. “Every year I have used the resources available to me to continue to grow.”

For her outstanding service to the department, College of Business and Economics and Towson University, Eifert has been awarded the college’s Outstanding Staff Award for the 2017-2018 academic year.

“Through her years of dedicated service, I have found Chris to be the most valued resource of the department,” said Department Chair Matthew Chambers, Ph.D. “Her commitment to the job, willingness to get out from ‘behind the desk,’ and desire for personal growth are second to none. Without her support and friendship, I would not be able to perform my duties as chair.”

In addition to going above and beyond in her administrative duties to support the department, Eifert takes a hands-on, mentoring approach to supervising work-study students. She has made a significant personal impact on many student workers during her time in the economics office, providing unwavering support, guidance and wisdom.

Brian Daskalovitz was at the lowest point of his life when he came to it work in the economics office. Eifert, like others, could have dismissed him as an unruly college kid. But she took him under her wing and helped turn his life around, he said.

“She would talk to me daily about my ambitions and what I was doing to get there,” said Daskalovitz, who graduated in 2005 and went on to become the CFO of Fairfax County Federal Credit Union in Virginia. “She encouraged me and helped build up my confidence.”

Eifert is also passionate about giving back to the community. She is a licensed amateur radio operator and volunteers her time with Baltimore County’s emergency response operations. If there were to be a large-scale emergency or disaster on campus, Eifert would be a part of the frontline of defense, communicating via radio with first responders.

“I also carry a first aid kit on me at all times, just in case,” she said.

Professor Plamen Peev, Lary Zhang and Alicia jones posing with a cardboard cut out at the national collegiate sales competition

Sales-savvy students lead TU’s debut in national sales competition

Larry Zhang and Alicia Jones competed against 400 students from 80 institutions at the National Collegiate Sales Competition (NCSC) earlier this month, marking the first time Towson University has been represented at the event.

Founded in 1999 to promote and enhance the practice and professionalism of sales, the NCSC is the longest-running role-play sales competition for university students in existence. Individuals compete in 20-minute mock sales meetings, playing the part of a salesperson presenting a product to a representative from a fictional company. Students were judged on their approach to the client, needs identification, presentation, overcoming objections and close.

“The National Collegiate Sales Competition confirmed my future in sales,” said Jones, a mass communications major with a dual track in public relations and advertising and a minor in marketing. “I got the chance to speak with other students, professors and companies outside of Towson to get new perspectives on the future. It shifted my goals, boosted my confidence and made me realize I need to aim higher.”

Although neither Zhang, a nursing major, nor Jones won overall, they tied for second through fifth place among the 17 universities competing for the first time—earning TU a guaranteed spot to send competitors to the 2019 competition. The competition is only open to 80 universities each year and previously competing schools that place in a certain rank are given preference for the following year’s competition.

“The exposure students get to national recruiters from 43 companies (list included) is unparalleled – attending the event one really feels like the cream of the crop in terms of sales students has converged on Kennesaw State’s campus and it is not uncommon for contestants to get 30+ interviews out of it,” said Plamen Peev, Associate Professor of Marketing, who teaches professional selling courses in the College of Business and Economics.

Both Zhang and Jones competed in the third annual CBE Sales Competition in October, which made them eligible to attend the national event and helped prepare them for the intense competition.

The CBE Sales Competition is open to students of all majors and no experience or previous interest in sales is required. In addition to the opportunity to network with judges and buyers looking to hire, students can compete for scholarship prizes along with the chance to attend next year’s national sales competition. First place is $1,500. Second plans is $1,000 and third place is $500. CBE’s 2018 competition is scheduled for Oct. 26.

“Students should definitely think about participating in the sales competition even if they have never considered sales before,” said Jones. “In this short amount of time since the Towson Sales Competition I realized sales is certainly where I see myself in the future.”