Dr. Kimberly G. Burke, dean of the Else School of Management at Millsaps College and professor of accounting, said she was “surprised and delighted” by being receiving the 2014 Outstanding Educator Award from the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants.
“This was a completely unexpected honor,” Burke said.
But it came as no surprise to colleagues and those who have sat in her classrooms.
“Dr. Burke is a professor who made students think critically about the real world application of their studies,” said former student Drew Moroux, an audit associate at KPMB in Jackson. “She has an enthusiasm for educating that is inspiring. She garners the respect of her co-workers and students through her genuine care for their interests, desires, and successes.”
Moroux said whether through case study, written essay, or traditional examination, Burke challenges students to reach their full potential with not only debits and credits, but further encourages debate of topics such as ethics and problem solving.
“Dr. Burke is an educator whose lessons reach beyond the boundaries of the classroom and into the lives and careers of her students,” he said.
Dr. S. Keith Dunn, senior vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college, said Burke is a great example of the teacher/scholar model prevalent among Millsaps College faculty.
“She is a leader in her academic field, an outstanding teacher and mentor for our students, and an able administrator who consistently facilitates the success of her faculty colleagues,” Dunn said. “We couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishments.”
When Burke started college, she planned to major in music or psychology. A friend persuaded her to take accounting with him one semester. She didn’t find it easy.
“I was shocked to discover that my accounting professor was talking about the subject as though she were speaking a language I had never heard,” Burke said. “Accounting was a real challenge for me, and I got really caught up in mastering it.”
She was in the masters of accounting program at Texas Tech when her major professor asked her to cover his class for a few weeks, which ended up lasting the whole semester. She fell in love with teaching in the first week, and knew she I would continue teaching for the rest of her life.
“Even when I went to work in public accounting and later as a director of internal audit, I always knew I would stop one day, get my doctorate and teach,” Burke said. “I enjoy the challenge of making accounting accessible and fun for my students. The real payoff comes when students who have been struggling or have come to the class reluctantly suddenly figure it out and find some fun in what they’re doing.”
Burke has been involved in doing research. What she finds most rewarding is when they discover a new question that no one has researched, and then put their heads together to structure hypotheses and find solutions.
Some polls show that being a college professor is considered one of the best jobs a person can have. Burke said the dean who hired her at Millsaps College was Dr. Hugh Parker.
“He once told me that being a professor is the closest you can get to being self-employed without the risk,” Burke said. “He was absolutely right. Being a professor provides incredible freedom in terms of how you work and an opportunity to mentor and guide students as they find their way through college into the professional world.”
The world of accounting has undergone tremendous sea changes in the 19 years Burke has been involved with the profession. When she entered the profession, they were still using multi-column ledger paper, and “portable computers” that weighed about 50 pounds were just entering the market.
Today, her classroom is almost paperless, and students typically have two or three devices on them at any time.
“Technology has given significant freedom to teachers in accounting to concentrate more on theory and practice, rather than on ‘ticking and tying’ the financial statements,” she said.
Burke said the ultimate challenge of teaching accounting is to create a learning environment that borrows situations from the real world where students can practice making good decisions under less than ideal circumstances. She said it is working with those ‘less than ideal’ circumstances that help students find the fun and excitement in accounting.
In her off time, Burke spends as much time as possible with her husband, her daughter, and their three dogs. Many weekends in the fall and spring, you will find her sitting on the bleachers, watching her 12-year-old daughter, Kelsey, compete in gymnastics.
“She’s an amazing athlete and we travel a lot for her competitions,” Burke said. “Any time I have some downtime, you can find me with my Kindle; I carry it with me everywhere in case I can catch a few minutes to read. I’m a voracious reader of virtually any fiction or nonfiction.”
Burke will receive the award during the 2015 Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants convention in Sandestin, Fla. Burke was recognized for her 19 years of teaching experience, more than 20 peer-reviewed publications, numerous proceedings and research presentations. Burke is also the author of several continuing education courses offered through the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
In 2008, Burke was recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education as the Mississippi Professor of the Year. She also helps Millsaps graduates secure jobs with leading accounting firms and has established an executive shadowing program for accounting
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