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BUSINESS: Paquita Friday

BUSINESSA Knack for Numbers Paquita Friday

Title: Assistant Professor of Accounting, University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business
Education: Ph.D., Accounting, University of Michigan;
M.S., Accounting and Economics, University of Michigan;
B.S., Business, University of Michigan; CPA,
State of Michigan
Age: 36

Back in middle school Dr. Paquita Friday began helping keep books at her grandmother’s pharmacy during inventory. It was no chore, she recalls. It was fun. By then, of course, she already knew she had a knack for numbers.

Today Friday is gaining recognition for her research in accounting stock market disclosures and winning awards for her teaching skills. She is also certain that the job as a professor is the best in the world. 

Prior to teaching, Friday worked as an auditor for Deloitte and Touche, and she eventually planned to go to law school until she was recruited by the PhD Project, a program that aims to increase the diversity of business school faculty. 

“Dr. Friday and others like her bring in real-world relevance to classrooms,” says Dr. Bernard Milano, director of the New Jersey-based PhD Project. “She’s bright and articulate and has done a tremendous job in mentoring.”

With expertise in stock market disclosures, Friday’s doctoral research focused on how stock market disclosures on companies in Mexico are misinterpreted in financial statements.

“In the U.S. we don’t recognize the impact inflation has on financial statements. The dollar amounts are nominal, but inflation is low here. We ignore the significance,” she says. After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, she accepted a teaching position at Notre Dame in 1996.

One of her research focuses is pension accounting.

“Today companies are facing set-backs and pensions are a burden,” she says. “Companies had over-funded pension plans for years, but not any longer. Accounting for pensions isn’t always easy to understand.”

In fact, it can be extremely confusing, even to those in the field. Companies promise to pay a fixed amount of salary to retirees. This amount was defined as a benefit by many older, industrial companies.

“But many of these companies, like airlines and steel companies, are filing for bankruptcy. Their pensions are almost tapped out,” Friday says. Today there is more burden on the employee.

Friday has undertaken a large project on how stock market analysts don’t fully understand the pension obligations of firms.

“A pension is an obligation to pay out when the time comes. Companies should be saving for that time,” she says, adding that companies need to account better for what they expect to owe versus what they expect to save and earn to pay for it.

Friday and her colleagues are in the process of submitting an article titled, “Market and Pension Accounting” to a journal. She has published work in several journals, including The Accounting Review and Contemporary Accounting Research.   

As much as she loves research, she adores teaching. She won the James Dincolo Teaching Award in accounting at the University of Notre Dame. She thinks her classroom success is related to her real-life experience.

“I use the practical experience I have, the details I saw as an auditor and findings in research.”

Friday currently teaches an undergraduate class, “Accounting Measurement and Disclosure,” and a graduate course, “Financial and Managerial Accounting.”

She is concerned about the small number of women going into accounting education. Only four accounting professors at Notre Dame are women, and that figure is an all-time high. Many universities have fewer than that.

In her spare time, she is “a huge sports fan,” and attends college football and professional basketball games. She still plays the piano for fun and sometimes runs in marathons. Her husband, Sean, is a Ph.D. candidate in cell molecular developmental biology at the University of Michigan.

“She is inspiring thousands of students. She loves what she does and she does it extremely well. Her research gives her great credibility,” Milano says.

“She’s not just bright with a great understanding of accounting,” says Dr. Eugene Imhoff, Ernst & Young Professor of Accounting at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “She knows how to educate students… Everywhere she is becomes a better place, not just in the workplace, but in her community.”

—  By Eleanor Lee Yates

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