Mentoring the next generation

Mentoring the next generation

Donna Free in a white sweater, smiling, teaching a class
Special Instructor Donna Free receives MICPA 2017 Accounting Teaching Excellence Award

Donna Free has been an educator for nearly three decades. In the classroom, her instruction is guided by her experiences working in public accounting, and a desire to give her students the same kind of supportive learning environment she experienced as an accounting student. 

“When I was a student and very active in accounting organizations, I had excellent faculty advisers who definitely spent time with me,” says Free, who received her master's degree in accountancy from the University of Missouri–St. Louis. “I make a lot of time for students. Being present and giving students the opportunity to reach out to me for consultation, whether about a class or about a career path is important to me.” 

In her 17 years at Oakland University, Free has focused on students while in roles such as Special Instructor of Accounting; Coordinator of Graduate Business Programs; Faculty Coordinator, Masters of Accounting Program; and Interim Faculty Director, Executive MBA Program. 

“The fact that I had memorable mentors made me realize how valuable mentorship is in education,” she says. For that reason, Free has made mentorship a focal point in her student interactions. 

In recognition of her hard work and dedication, the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA) honored her with its 2017 Accounting Teaching Excellence Award. “It’s really nice to be recognized for something I am so passionate about,” says Free. 

She insists mentoring the next generation is already an honor. “Preparing future accounting professionals is really meaningful,” she says. “I love when students tell me they like accounting and want to be an accounting major because of what I do in the classroom. When a student gets as excited about accounting as I am, I know I’ve done my job.” 

The nominations say it all

“Donna Free is committed to the development of students and guiding them to successful professional careers. Through her tutelage, students grow from uncertain career aspirations to successful accounting professionals.”

Mohinder Parkash, Ph.D. 
Chair, Department of Accounting and Finance, OU

“Donna has an obvious love of learning and inspires her students with her contagious passion for education and accounting course material. Donna has always been available and supportive of her students. As her student, I quickly realized she was someone special and solicited her to be my role model and mentor. As her peer, it has become more obvious that she is a phenomenal educator – warm, accessible, enthusiastic, caring and approachable.”

Lori Dorko, CPA, MAcc ’08
Special instructor of accounting, OU

“Professor Free’s passion for accounting is contagious. Fellow classmates remark she is one of the main reasons they decided to pursue a career in accounting. Professor Free creates a teaching environment where students are not afraid to ask questions. She makes herself available to help accounting students with coursework, scheduling and career opportunities. She encouraged me early in my academic career to seek out leadership roles.” 

Mary Sheena, ACC ’16, MAcc ’17 
Assurance Associate, PwC

“I can say in full confidence that Professor Free changed my life for the better. She inspires her students, as she did with me, to push yourself to your limits whether it’s doing well on an exam or working with others to complete a project. When I questioned my abilities to complete the program, given my bachelor’s in physiology, her passion for the field convinced me I made the right choice.”

Shadi Fram, CPA, MAcc ’15
Assurance Associate, PwC

“PwC has a presence on many campuses throughout Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, and Donna is someone who immediately differentiated herself from her peers at other universities. The distinction Donna was able to create was due to her energy and passion for the profession; her mentorship of students; and her committed to continued academic excellence. She ignites passion, motivation and confidence in her students which, candidly, are key attributes we look for in those we hire. It is easy to recognize those students who have spent time with Donna as they are well prepared, know their ‘150’ plan and come with a recognizable level of confidence.” 

Bill Gonterman, PwC Tax Partner and Firm-Wide Relations Partner for OU
Lauren Rossi, SEHS ’07, PwC Greater Michigan Talent Acquisition Leader