IN Play: Q&A With Elizabeth A. Murphy, Ph.D., MBA, CPA
ICPAS' 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner has spent her career building lifelong relationships and has found a genuine passion in volunteering.
“Honey, you’re good with numbers” is a seemingly
commonplace compliment from a mother, but she
really had her daughter’s number. For more than four
decades, Elizabeth (Beth) A. Murphy, Ph.D., MBA,
CPA, has dedicated her life to making an impact on
the accounting profession, resulting in professor
emerita status at DePaul University and a list of
institutions and organizations served, accolades
achieved, and lives changed that could fill this whole
issue. Even in retirement she is still changing lives
Who would have thought that your mom’s nudge to “try the trusted profession of
accounting” would lead to a career like yours?
Right!? What’s interesting is that she also attended DePaul University when they had
a secretarial school. I worked in public accounting for a few years after college, but
my career path changed when El Strobel—head of DePaul’s accounting department
(and an incredible inspiration to students) when I was an undergraduate student and
president of Beta Alpha Psi—advised me to return to DePaul for my MBA. I was
recruited to continue my degree on a full-time basis as a graduate teaching
assistant—it was the first time TAs were used for the principles of accounting
courses—and that experience led me to seek a full-time teaching position.
You’ve since dedicated your life to fostering future generations of accounting
So many students, especially minority students, are first-generation college
graduates. I was also a first-generation college graduate, and I believed my role as
a faculty member was to not only help students learn accounting but to also help
them outside the classroom. I viewed myself as an advocate for the students who
didn’t recognize their talents. There is nothing better than helping students who are
hungry to learn and are genuinely appreciative of your support.
You’ve inspired hundreds of students to pursue the CPA credential, which is now
seeing declining numbers. What can turn this around?
Being a member of the AICPA Council and the AICPA’s FAR CPA Exam Content
Subcommittee has kept me engaged in the activities to evolve the CPA credential
and attract non-traditional students and professionals to it. If the AICPA continues its
forward-thinking approach and incorporates critical technology and analytics skills
into the exam, I think the CPA credential will continue to be valued.
But I would like to see more college-level accounting faculty promoting the CPA
credential and being more knowledgeable about the CPA exam and the paths for
students to achieve the 150 credit hours required to sit for it—like taking more
undergraduate courses to get the extra hours, especially technology courses that
will unquestionably help them in their accounting careers.
What have you learned from the lifelong relationships you formed with students
and peers that can help today’s faculty and business leaders?
My experience has been that honesty and genuine concern are key—and so is
practicing what you preach. My relationships are a direct result of the guidance and
patience of my lifelong mentors who taught me to take the time to know my mentees.
It is not always easy, but a good mentoring relationship evolves with time and feels
natural and comfortable—like every good relationship should.
What else has driven your success, and where can we find some of our own?
I’ve been fortunate to have great parents, grandparents, brothers, and lifetime friends
that support me outside my accounting career. These caring people were role
models for me and made success in my professional life possible.
As many people know, I also have many great stories as a result of my volunteer
experiences. Others have always guided me toward activities where there was a
need they believed I could help with. Bob Peters, an ICPAS Outstanding Educator,
mentored me throughout my career and invited me to succeed him as faculty advisor
for DePaul’s Midwest Association of Hispanic Accountants. Also, Debra Hopkins,
a former chair of the Illinois CPA Society Board of Directors and former director of
Northern Illinois University’s CPA Review, is one of many great professionals that I’ve
come to know as an ICPAS volunteer that enhanced my ability to support students
inside and outside the classroom. My volunteerism with ICPAS has also led me to
volunteer elsewhere. These experiences are incredibly rewarding both professionally and personally.