College of Business
An interactive journey to understand accounting
When Enron defense attorneys needed someone who could get a layman to understand derivatives, the complex financial tools at the heart of their dealings, they called Pam Smith.
Smith, who is internationally acclaimed for her ability to strip the topic to its essence, was as good as advertised. Ultimately, however, they chose not to put her on the stand. Her expertise in another area got in the way. That topic? Ethics. She refused to compromise her ethics in order to “spin” their story.
Smith, who holds the title of KPMG Professor of Accountancy in the NIU College of Business, continues to excel in both arenas. Today she is an almost unchallenged expert in the teaching of derivatives and hedge accounting. She draws rave reviews from students, whether they are undergraduates, MBA students or working professionals.
According to at least one former student, her courses are more than just a class. “Dr. Smith’s classroom environment is more than just an accounting class, it’s an interactive journey to understand accountancy in a way that challenges students to ask questions, research and seek out answers regarding complex issues,” said Eric Manus, who also worked for Smith as a graduate assistant.
Her approach to teaching the topic received last year’s American Accounting Association Innovation in Accounting Education Award, the most prestigious accolade of its kind.
That prize was one of the most prestigious in a long line of teaching honors for Smith. She was the Department of Accountancy’s outstanding educator for four straight years (1999-2002); in 2008 she was named the Outstanding Educator of the Year by the Illinois CPA Society; and students of the NIU Executive MBA Program have named her the outstanding instructor in that program four years running.
Her expertise and accessible teaching style put her in great demand with companies such as Abbot Labs, Accenture and some of the top international accounting firms each year.
Smith is nearly as well known for her work as a champion of ethics education and delivers ethics training to organizations such as the Illinois Government Finance Officers Association.
After helping to create a certificate in ethics for NIU students in the 1990s, she jumped at the chance to serve on a College of Business task force that created the BELIEF (Building Ethical Leaders using an Integrated Ethics Framework) initiative. The program incorporates ethics training into nearly every business course, teaching students to apply simple benchmarks to all sorts of ethical dilemmas. The program has been held up as a Best Practice by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. After years as the informal champion of the program Smith officially assumed the title of BELIEF coordinator for 2008 and 2009.
Smith is the senior faculty member in the NIU Department of Accountancy, bridging two generations of outstanding accountancy educators who have brought acclaim and high rankings to the department. She has authored more than 30 articles for refereed journals, is an active participant in all facets of university service, and finds time to a volunteer to provide comfort at hospitals, nursing homes and children’s programs in the community with her certified therapy dogs.
Her success has made her an attractive prize for other programs looking to enhance their own faculty, but she has steadfastly remained a Huskie. “
Pam has remained committed to NIU because she believes in its mission and values,” College of Business Dean Denise Schoenbachler wrote in her letter of support. “It is not about money or recognition for Pam or she would have left NIU years ago; it is about teaching great students and pushing forward the importance of ethics education and contributing to her discipline and the practice of accounting … I cannot think of another faculty member I have encountered across the university who so perfectly exemplifies the criteria for the Board of Trustees Professorship.”