After winning the Excellence in Teaching award, fourth year PhD student Minna Hong said, “I believe it is important for university students to not only acquire the knowledge required for their chosen career path, but also to develop life skills, such as discipline and responsibility, and character. As a teacher, I hope that I can play a positive role in helping students achieve these elements during their university journey.”
Delving into her PhD studies has meant learning how to both teach and conduct in-depth research, and these are areas where Minna has thrived. Attributing her growth and her success to the talented and accomplished Accounting faculty, Minna indicates that she has received tremendous support throughout her studies and during her teaching. Experiencing the different teaching methods of faculty members within the School of Accounting and Finance helped to inform Minna’s teaching practice and helped her establish clear instructional goals for her future.
When Minna taught AFM 101, she was mentored by Professor Sasan Saiy, a former instructor of the course. Learning how to teach under the direction of Prof. Saiy impacted Minna: she saw the great bond he established with students, his caring approach and his passion for teaching — all of which she tried to emulate in her own teaching. He showed that same care and passion in mentoring Minna in her first full teaching experience, encouraging and motivating her consistently throughout.
Professor Pat O’Brien, Minna’s supervisor also helped inspire and hone her interest and skillset in teaching. Professor O’Brien taught Introduction to Financial Accounting Research, a graduate course that focuses on experimental research and economics-based practices. For Minna, it was the first course where she gained exposure to accounting research papers, but what really resonated with her was the extensive feedback Prof. O’Brien gave the students and how she devoted so much of her attention to their learning — practices Minna also tries to employ in her own teaching.
Minna pursued an unconventional, yet equally fascinating path to become a PhD student. Beginning her academic endeavours with an undergraduate degree in biology and economics, she was drawn to accounting after taking an elective in that discipline at the University of Toronto. Once completed, Minna took additional accounting courses at Ryerson University to fulfill the course requirements for the then Chartered Accountant designation. Her foray into accounting opened up numerous professional opportunities, and from that, Minna began working for Sievert & Sawrantschuk LLP as an auditor in Toronto, where she worked for five years. While in this role, Minna graded papers for one of her previous accounting professors at Ryerson University, Professor Deirdre Taylor, who became her mentor.
Prof. Taylor’s passion as a professor and her interest in positively influencing students’ lives, including Minna’s, awakened Minna’s interest in education, teaching and mentoring students. Concurrently, Minna’s career was advancing as an auditor. “As I moved up into a senior role, I began to train the juniors, and in one of the training sessions, somebody mentioned to me that I was a very good teacher.” Having those experiences meant that Minna grew increasingly interested in teaching opportunities, as well as accounting. She was able to find the perfect pairing of those two components in the Accounting PhD at Waterloo.
These past few years have brought many new experiences, as not only is Minna working toward her new career goal of becoming a professor of accounting, she is doing so with a whole family — her husband, parents, and her two young sons — helping to support the endeavour. When Minna thinks about her future teaching opportunities, she says, “It’s an honor to receive the Excellence in Teaching Award and to have the privilege to teach students. When I look back at my journey here, I am humbled and grateful to God for His amazing grace in my life and I hope to pass on the blessings and be a positive influence to others through this career. This award inspires me to further strive for excellence in my teaching in the future.”