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Professor Kathy Krawczyk Makes a Lasting Impression

When the announcement came that Kathy Krawczyk was stepping down as director of the NC State Poole College of Management’s Jenkins Master of Accounting (MAC) program, some people naturally assumed that meant retirement, or at least slowing down some.

But that’s not the case at all. Krawczyk, Dixon Hughes Goodman Professor of Accounting, will move forward with the same energy and commitment to the program that she’s shown in her role as director over the past 14 years.

“I might be stepping down from the role of MAC director, but I’m not stepping away from MAC classes,” said Krawczyk. “That is so important to me.”

Her first stop, however, will be serving as interim head of the accounting department as current department head and KPMG Professor of Accounting Frank Buckless, moves into his role as associate dean for faculty and academic affairs, effective June 1.

“Once I get past the interim position, I want to be a very active faculty member,” said Krawczyk. “I see a lot going on in this department, both in the MAC program and the undergraduate program, and I want to help out any way I can.”

That drive to focus first on the goals and needs of the program is at the heart of what’s made Krawczyk a successful leader of the MAC program for more than a decade. When she took on the role of program director, it was she and one staff member with roughly 50 students enrolled in the program.

They immediately began looking at ways to expand the program, and did so successfully, with an average of 110 students now enrolled each year. At the same time, they explored ways to continue improving upon the quality and career outcomes of the program. Her goal was to provide students with a top-notch education and prepare them to pass the CPA exam.

“She’s been a great advocate for the students, and really concerned about their future opportunities,” said Buckless. “She’s also been a great advocate for her professional staff – helping them develop and be successful.”

As the program grew, Krawczyk’s role evolved as well.

“My role has changed from coordinating 50 students and making sure they had jobs, to spearheading a wide range of initiatives within the program,” she said. “At the same time, I still teach and serve as faculty advisor to the students.”

Just a few of those initiatives include overseeing a curriculum committee, which ensures the curriculum is future-focused and covers the topics students need to succeed in their careers.

She also manages the MAC program’s alumni board as it continues to grow, adding a few members every year. The board meets four times each year to provide Krawczyk and her team with the important alumni perspectives on what the program should be providing to its students to ensure success.

Just as they reach out to alumni, Krawczyk and her team also reach out to employers, soliciting their feedback as the accounting profession continues to change and evolve, she said.

“There’s much more of an emphasis today on leadership skills in addition to technical knowledge,” Krawczyk said. “The program we provide is working on a lot of both the analytical critical thinking skills as well as the sometimes more complex creative problem solving capabilities – making sure that students can analyze issues and problems from a whole business perspective.”

She’s been recognized over the years for her hard work and innovative approach. Notably, in 2016, she, Buckless and Scott Showalter, professor of practice in the accounting department, received an Innovation in Accounting Education Award from the American Accounting Association in 2016. The award recognized their use of Second Life to provide a hands-on learning experience with a real world audit process: conducting a physical examination of inventory, a project they’d initiated in 2009.

Krawczyk joined NC State in 1992 as an assistant professor, and was among the faculty to work on the development of the MAC program, which began with the class of 1995.

As she progressed to associate professor, then full professor, Bob Peace, founding director of the MAC program, decided to retire.

“At that point, I was really enjoying teaching MAC students, and I was involved in admissions and recruiting,” she said. “I thought I could take on the director role and help to grow and expand the program.”

In the years since, she’s taken a team approach to leadership, relying on her staff to help her drive the program forward.

“I am not a micromanager – my team will tell you that,” she said. “It’s very much a team – I’m trusting everybody to do their jobs. I make sure that we’re covering everything, and people are happy and enjoying the job they’re doing.”

As she reflects on the program’s accomplishments over the years, Krawczyk recalls a number of proud moments. Among those is the program’s first jump in enrollment by about 30 students, and the inclusion of community engagement and financial literacy activities into the curriculum. And later, when the MAC program became nationally ranked in the Public Accounting Report.

“We’ve been nationally ranked in the Public Accounting Report for most of the time I’ve been director,” she said. “This is a survey and ranking done by accounting professors around the nation, focusing on how they perceive the leadership ability of the students coming out of the program.”

She’s also proud that 40 to 50 percent of MAC students come from universities other than NC State, meaning they are not NC State undergraduates who move into the graduate program.

“This offers a fresh perspective and allows students to find out what’s going on all over the place,” Krawczyk said. “I think that makes for a very rich educational environment for them – it’s a year of brand new experiences for them.”

Krawczyk credits her co-workers and students for the personal growth that she’s experienced during her time as MAC program director.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself; I’ve tested myself in a lot of ways,” she said. “Embracing change used to scare me, now it’s an everyday experience.”

A self-proclaimed introvert, she said she’s pushed herself outside those boundaries in her role.

Looking back, Krawczyk said she’s proud of the changes that have taken place, and doesn’t doubt that more changes are ahead.

“The program now is very different than it was when I started, and that doesn’t mean it won’t be different in five to ten years,” she said. “That’s a sign of adaptability, and that we’ve got a good group of people working to make sure that what we’re giving students is the best we can offer.”

This article was written for the NC State Poole College of Management by Lea Hart.

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