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Dr. Mandi Peterson looked at all the numbers and they added up to one thing — a career as a professor in accounting at East Carolina University.
Peterson grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and graduated from nearby Old Dominion University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
“Virginia Beach is a beach town that is home to lots of military,” she said. “I spent a ton of time at the beach and near or in the water, so I would say it was a great place to grow up.”
She later obtained her doctoral degree in accounting from Rutgers University in New Jersey and worked in private industry before turning her attention to teaching.
“I majored in accounting in college because it came naturally to me for the most part. The more accounting I learned, the more I enjoyed it,” Peterson said. “Once I was out of college, I worked as an auditor for a large accounting firm, and I liked what I learned on the job. In my time with the firm, I found that my favorite part of my work was training newer associates. Ultimately, my aptitude for accounting and love of teaching led me to get my Ph.D. to become a professor.”
She landed at ECU in the College of Business eight years ago and immediately had an impact on her students. One of those students, Taylor Chappell, started a scholarship to honor Peterson and Department of Accounting teaching instructor Jan Workman.
“She said she did that because of the impact we made on her as an undergraduate student here at ECU,” Peterson said. “Having the scholarship named after me was a huge surprise, and it served as the most fulfilling moment of my career thus far. Having an impact on a student is the ultimate goal for most of us, and receiving feedback to that level about the impact we made was very special. I feel grateful and humbled that a student did that for us.”
Peterson focuses her research and teaching on governmental accounting and auditing, looking at how governments spend the people’s money. She’s authored or co-authored a number of papers on the topic and has presented at various conferences.
“All of us are affected by the local government where we live and pay taxes, so I feel like these topics are relevant to many people,” she said.
Peterson serves as the faculty advisor for the ECU chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma, a national academic honor society for business students.
“It has been fun to get to know the top business students while serving as the faculty advisor for Beta Gamma Sigma,” she said. “It’s great to see their accomplishments recognized and to be able to celebrate them with their families at the induction ceremony we hold each semester. It’s exciting to see the motivation and determination these students exhibit, and also the pride they have in their accomplishment.”
She said teaching virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic has included video lectures and WebEx meetings with students.
“While it is harder for students this way, it is also harder for professors,” Peterson said. “When I am teaching face-to-face, I can read the room and see when students need to spend more time on a topic or need more help. Teaching online makes that much more challenging as gauging students’ understanding over a computer screen is harder. I have to think outside the box for new ways to reach students to try to ensure they are understanding the material and keeping up.”
However, teaching virtually had one particular perk for the mother of three young children, ages 2, 4 and 6.
“I was on a live review session on WebEx with students when my 4-year-old showed up in my home office with a valentine he had made me,” Peterson said. “That’s definitely a change from what teaching used to look like — albeit a sweet one.”
She looks forward to getting back to in-person teaching.
“I miss being in the classroom terribly, and I cannot wait to be back in person having face-to-face interactions with my students and colleagues,” Peterson said.
After all, for Peterson, she gets joy out of seeing her students succeed.
“I love working with students and helping them learn new concepts,” she said. “It’s very fulfilling to see a student start to understand something they are struggling with because of my help.”
What do you like to do when not working? I have three small kids (ages 2, 4, and 6) so I spend most of my time caring for and playing with them when I’m not working. I love traveling, hiking, yoga, exercising and reading.
Last thing I watched on TV: “Criminal Minds”
First job: Hostess at a restaurant when I was a teenager
Guilty pleasure: Reese’s cups
Favorite meal: Tacos
One thing most people don’t know about me: I have run five half-marathons.
Name: Mandi Peterson
Title: Assistant Professor
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia
Colleges attended and degrees: Bachelor of Science in accounting from Old Dominion University; doctorate in accounting from Rutgers University
Years working at ECU: Eight
What I do at ECU: Accounting professor
What I love about ECU: I love the people at ECU. I knew from my first visit to Greenville that I wanted to work here. The sense of community within the university and the College of Business is really special.
Research interests: My main research interests are in governmental and nonprofit accounting, specifically governance in local governments and nonprofit organizations. I like examining how these organizations are run to see if there is any relationship between governance and the effectiveness of their internal controls. I am also interested in the impact that having ineffective internal controls may have on governmental entities and ultimately the constituents that rely on the government for public goods and services. All of us are affected by the local government where we live and pay taxes, so I feel like these topics are relevant to many people.
What advice do you give to students? I tell them to put their phones down. It’s so easy to slip into our phones in order to avoid uncomfortable situations or awkward social encounters getting to know people. Meanwhile you never know what those uncomfortable encounters may lead to. It could be a networking opportunity for your dream job or meeting the person who will be your lifelong best friend. You just never know. Also, learning to engage socially and networking are important lifelong skills often gained through the college experience. First, you have to put the phone down, though.
Favorite class to teach? I enjoy teaching governmental accounting because my research interests and experience as an auditor who specialized in local government audits are most applicable here. I like to incorporate real-world experiences from my work history into the classroom when possible.