Dr. Rebecca Files has faced some tough crowds in her accounting classes.Some students arrive expecting a dull semester, the assistant professor of accounting said. But Files sees that as a challenge.
"There are a lot of misconceptions about accounting: That it’s boring; that it’s purely math equations," she said. "I love convincing students otherwise."
Files’ passion for accounting — and for teaching — has turned many students into fans. Students nominated her for the President’s Outstanding Teacher Award, which UT Dallas President David E. Daniel presented to her at a recent Honors Convocation ceremony.
"Dr. Files demonstrates an exemplary teaching ability enhanced by an enthusiasm for the subject matter," Daniel said at the May 16 event. Her students describe her as a professor who truly cares for her students, practicing patience and encouragement in the classroom and in one-on-one situations.
"One student described Dr. Files in this way: 'She was willing to sit for as long as it took and explain a concept in a number of ways to make sure that it was clear. She was willing to work with each student’s schedule and was possibly the most understanding professor I have ever met,'" Daniel said.
Dr. Hasan Pirkul, dean of the Naveen Jindal School of Management, said the award brings well-deserved recognition for Files’ exceptional teaching contributions.
"Dr. Files goes above and beyond to help her students succeed," Pirkul said. "We are thankful for all that she does for students. In addition to her excellent teaching, Dr. Files also is making important contributions with her research on regulatory issues and restatements. We are fortunate to have her on our faculty."
Files said she was shocked when she heard about the award. She had no idea she had been nominated.
"It was a really great surprise," she said. "I just love teaching so much, so I feel really honored to have received the award."
The assistant professor began her university teaching career at UT Dallas in 2009. Before that, Files worked as a teaching assistant while earning a PhD in accounting at Texas A&M University. She earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s in finance, both at Texas A&M University. During school, Files worked as an intern at two of the Big Four accounting firms: Deloitte and KPMG.
Files said she encourages students to explore careers in accounting, which are in demand and often pay well. She counters misconceptions that the jobs involve sitting alone with a calculator and spreadsheets.
"People assume that if you are an accountant, you must be really good with numbers," she said. "While that might be true, I think it’s more about having an organized mind and putting information in the correct buckets." Students give Files high marks for the way she presents the information in class. Instead of showing PowerPoints to her students, Files writes notes on a document reader projected onto a screen while she talks about the subject. She said taking notes along with the class slows her down so she does not talk too fast for students to write what she is saying.
Files said she enjoys staying in touch with students after they leave her classroom. She and her husband, who have an infant son, host monthly get-togethers for former students. They go to movies, sports events or have pizza at the Files’ home."We’ve become really good friends with a lot of them," Files said. "For me, that’s been the best part of being a teacher here, getting to pour into their lives outside the classroom."
In the fall, she will teach intermediate courses. The students, who already must have taken the intro course, are less likely to need any convincing about the subject matter at that point. Files said she is eager to get started.
"The students are so good here," Files said. "I really, really enjoy teaching them and I’m excited for a new group in the fall."