Accountants often graduate college with a standard career path in mind. Many set their sights on working for a Big Four firm or working their way up to CFO or vice president at a company.
For University of Montevallo accounting instructor DeAnna Smith, however, her path always seemed different.
Smith graduated at the top of the Stephens College of Business class of 1999. Though she went into the public accounting field after graduation, her gratitude for the professors she had at Montevallo stuck with her.
“The faculty at the University while I was here were absolutely critical in getting my career started,” Smith said. “They opened the doors for interviews, they were good references for me. They really helped change my life.”
This gratitude planted a desire to help students of her own one day.
Nearly 10 years after earning her undergraduate degree, Smith found her way back. The University called to offer her a position in 2008. Smith had remained active at UM, as a member of the Junior Board of Directors and the National Alumni Association Board of Directors, where she served as treasurer.
Smith returned to UM as the director of budget and assistant treasurer and worked for just a year before being promoted to vice president of Business Affairs. She received many honors during her time in the position including Birmingham Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2012. Now, Smith serves on the boards of several Shelby County nonprofits including The Arc of Shelby County and the Boys & Girls Club of Montevallo.
One semester, the Michael E. Stephens College of Business was shorthanded for instructors. They asked Smith to fill in, and she said, “yes.”
“It was one of those moments of serendipity,” Smith said. “I stepped in the classroom and found out that was what I wanted to do.”
Smith decided to go back to school for her doctorate, eventually stepping down from her vice president position to teach full-time. Though her job had been enabling the life-changing work of the University, Smith wanted to see it face-to-face in the classroom and not the office.
Being a first-generation college student herself, Smith remembers the stress and feelings of instability that can come with the huge decisions her students are making. She tries to remember her classes are full of people, not just content-learners.
Her path to teaching was unconventional, but it was her own. Each step in the process aids her teaching ability, Smith said.
“I think students can see that I’ve been in their shoes,” Smith said. “I’ve gone into an accounting career, and I have something to bring into the classroom … It’s one of those things you can’t see until you sit down and look back at all the hills and valleys and realize, ‘I know why that happened now.’”