SAF PhD student receives Warren Ober Award for Outstanding Teaching

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Jillian adams
The School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) is pleased to share that Jillian Adams has been awarded the Warren Ober Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student. This award is given to a University of Waterloo graduate student in the Faculty of Arts who has made significant contributions to teaching. Jillian sat down with us to discuss the inspiration and motivation behind her approach to teaching, as well as her experience in the accounting PhD program.

What is your educational and professional background? Why did you want to do your PhD?

I completed my undergraduate degree in accounting at King’s University College at Western University and earned my graduate diploma in accounting at Western University. After that, I worked in public accounting and obtained my CPA designation in 2018 while working in tax at EY. I decided to return to school to do my PhD in accounting because I’ve always loved learning and want to share that passion with others through my teaching and research. 

What does it mean to you to have won the teaching award? What teaching experience do you have from your PhD?

This award really means a lot to me! I put a lot of effort into my teaching and am ecstatic to have been recognized for that. In the PhD program, we work as a TA for one semester (teaching tutorials), then as an instructor the next time the course is offered. This approach of working as a TA first allowed me to get a solid grasp of the course objectives, teaching methodologies, and lesson plans before going “live” in the classroom. I’ve also taken optional workshops through the Centre for Teaching Excellence to improve my skills. I have now had the pleasure of teaching AFM 206: Introduction to Tax twice. 

What sets your teaching apart from others? What is your favourite part of teaching?

Jillian Adams at podium
I think what sets my teaching apart is how recently I was in the shoes of my undergraduate students and how conscious I am of what worked (and didn’t work) for me when I was first learning tax. I see teaching as an iterative process, where I monitor students’ reactions and facial expressions and adapt my explanations and examples if it seems like my approach isn’t working. My absolute favourite part of teaching is students’ “lightbulb moments.” I love working through a difficult concept with students and seeing when they finally understand it.  

Is there a professor’s teaching in your department that stands out for you as something that inspires you?

That is a hard question because I’ve been lucky to have been taught by some outstanding professors, including Ken Klassen and Elizabeth Demers. When they talk about their research, you can really see their passion shine through, and that’s exactly what I want my students to see in my teaching as well. 

What is your favourite part of the PhD experience so far? What kind of courses have you taken?

I have taken courses in microeconomics, econometrics, research methods and design, Python, and core accounting research (financial accounting, managerial accounting, tax, audit). My favourite part of the PhD experience has been attending conferences and meeting others with similar interests. Research is very collaborative, and I’ve learned a lot from listening to and talking to brilliant people in my field. 

What has been your biggest learning moment during your teaching? During your PhD?

I’d say both of my biggest learning moments relate to perseverance. It’s perfectly okay not to understand something the first time you learn it – if the program were easy, everyone would be doing it. I’ve constantly reminded myself of this throughout my PhD and learned that my students benefit from hearing it too. 

What do you want to do once you complete your PhD?

I hope to obtain an assistant professor position in accounting so I can continue to do what I love – both teaching and researching. 

What is your key takeaway from your PhD and teaching so far?

Don’t give up on something that you love. Everyone has bad days – choose to wake up and try again tomorrow.