Fang Zhao, assistant professor accounting and finance

New accounting professor Zhao finds beauty, strength in numbers

Accounting is at the root of finance and management, so to know accounting is to know the underpinnings of the business world, said Assistant Professor Fang Zhao.

“Accounting is very technical and it’s the core of every business,” said Zhao, who joined Merrimack this fall as one of 25 new faculty members. “Accounting itself is an information business.”

Zhao, a native of Pianjin, China, near Beijing, teaches an undergraduate intermediate accounting class and a course in financial reporting and statement analysis for the new graduate program in the Girard School of Business.

A master’s degree in accounting is key to a successful career in the field these days, she said. Corporate America often needs more than the basic accounting knowledge that a bachelor’s degree teaches — businesses need the advanced technical skills that come with a master’s, such as financial analysis, auditing and taxation, Zhao said.

“Master’s students learn more and they have better analytical skills and professional skills than undergraduate skills,” she said.

Students who want to be recognized as certified public accountants need to attend graduate school to meet the requirement for 150 hours of class work.

“More importantly, the course design of the M.S.A. (master of science in accounting) program helps students not only build professional proficiency, but improve their analytical skills and communications skills,” she said, “which are necessary for successful accounting professionals.”

Mark Cordano, dean of the Girard School, said the graduate program in accounting was created in direct response to market forces and especially feedback from alumni working in the field.

“Our no. 1 job is to ensure our students have the tools they need to be successful,” Cordano said. “Adding the MSA to our historically strong accounting program gives Merrimack students another powerful tool. Fang joins our faculty with solid academic credentials and a global perspective, bringing even more value to our programs.”

As a young woman, Zhao was drawn to business and considered finance and management majors before settling on accounting in at Nanjing University.

“Accounting is beautiful. There is much less ambiguity in accounting,” Zhao said. “Everything is clear.”

China’s National Electric Power Co. offered Zhao a job in her hometown after graduation, but it sounded boring and she wanted to continue her education. She earned a master’s at Notre Dame and a doctorate at Florida International University, teaching accounting at FIU from spring 2011 until this fall.

“Those three years, helping those students, helped me be a better teacher,” Zhao said.

Zhao loves the interaction with hardworking and motivated students.

“When I teach them, when I talk to them, I feel motivated by them, too,” Zhao said.

She was a student for a long time, and is careful to recognize each of her student’s own learning curves and understands some topics are easier than others to understand.

“When I’m teaching, I’m also learning the topics more in depth,” Zhao said. “For me, teaching is the best way to learn.”