Had it not been for Mrs. Brenda Haines, Lauren Ayers of Kirby, W.Va., might not be looking forward to receiving a degree in accounting this May.
Haines was her accounting teacher during her junior year at Hampshire High School and a person who was pivotal in the young person's life.
"I liked Mrs. Haines because she was always motivated about the subject matter," Ayers said. "No matter what time of the day it was or what situations she was being faced with, she always was excited about accounting and helping her students grasp it. Her excitement transferred to me and helped spark my interest."
At Hampshire High, students must choose a focus area as freshmen. Ayers had picked engineering, but in her junior year she took Haines' accounting class, and she was hooked. "I loved how it felt when everything balanced, when it all worked out on paper," she said.
Fortunately for Ayers, she found the same encouragement from Presha Neidermeyer in her college honors accounting class. "Now my courses aren't necessarily about numbers," Ayers commented. "We're exploring concepts and laws. I love it, and Dr. Neidermeyer has been one of my favorite professors. She's very credible and charismatic. Her research is very broad, and she's a well-rounded intellectual."
Neidermeyer, whose research includes international accounting and how culture impacts auditor decision making, is also interested in gender studies and has co-edited a book studying work life balance. She also recently coauthored a book on the impact of the AIDS pandemic on the women of Africa.
"Learning is a life-long endeavor," Dr. Neidermeyer said. "As an educator, my goal is to prepare students for this by providing them with a base of information on which they can build, and encouraging in them attitudes and techniques for continued learning. Most students come to an accounting class expecting to be told specific procedures to follow in order to solve a fixed set of problems, but I inform them that that is not what I'm going to do."
Neidermeyer believes that if graduates simply "follow procedures," they won't succeed, nor will they have the skills to ask the right questions and then know "how to interpret the answers." Graduates, she said, need to know how to apply their knowledge to "situations they have never seen before."
"That takes practice, and accounting, because of its precise and formal nature, is one of the best places to get that practice. To encourage alternate learning methods, I incorporate service learning, professional speakers, trips abroad, and writing," she said.
For Ayers, this philosophy of teaching has been one of the fuses that have ignited her passion for accounting and a stellar college career. Ayers has been inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, the national business honorary, and is a vice president of professionalism for Beta Alpha Psi, a society for accounting, finance and information systems honor students. She is also vice president of the Accounting Club.
She's also a tap dancer. To the tune of "My Feet Can't Fail Me Now" by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, she danced in the 2009 Miss West Virginia Scholarship Organization competition. She also danced to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network.
She loves to create scrapbooks, and she's a hunter. "I sat in a tree stand for an entire week this fall and didn't get to take a shot. I did, however, get a lot of reading done." Regardless, she said, hunting is a chance to bond with her father, Eric (Chip) Ayers.
Ayers is going directly into the WVU Master of Professional Accountancy Program after she graduates this spring. "I don't want to start a career and have to deal with master's classes at the same time," she said. Ultimately, she would like to earn a Ph.D.
Last summer she did an internship with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Pittsburgh, and she hopes to work in public accounting when her master's degree is completed.