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News and Events

Mendoza wins Outstanding Educator Award by IL CPA Society

Jun 5, 2024, 08:30 by Aaron Bennett
Award recognizes those who contribute to the education of accounting students through their leadership, teaching excellence, and active involvement in the accounting profession.

Feeling lost after his mom passed away, Mariano Cruz (ACCY ‘22, MAS '23) initially opted not to seek a career in business and became a plumber’s assistant. But after breaking his leg in a freak accident on a jobsite, he decided to honor her wish that he become a CPA and enrolled in the Master of Accounting Science (MAS) program at Gies College of Business.

There he met Kim Mendoza, assistant professor of accountancy, who recently was awarded the Illinois CPA Society’s Outstanding Educator Award. It recognizes those who contribute to the education of accounting students through their leadership, teaching excellence, and active involvement in the accounting profession.

“From the first day of her course on the foundations of data analytics (ACCY 570), Professor Mendoza has had a big impact on the way I look at the world,” said Cruz, now a financial rotational analyst at Snap-on Inc. in Kenosha, WI. “She opened my eyes to continuously investigate technological advancements that can impact business positively.”

For example, as Cruz was wrapping up a conversation with Mendoza during office hours, he noticed a Meta Quest VR headset on her desk. 

“She took the extra time to explain its various uses and reinforced how it is a great example of business technology improving lives,” said Cruz.

Today, Mendoza teaches several data analytics courses to graduate students, including MBA 563: Data Toolkit: Business Data Modeling & Predictive Analytics, MBA 564B: Applying Data Analytics in Accounting, and ACCY 578: Accounting Analytics Applications. She says she continuously updates her learning outcomes to incorporate the newest technologies into her syllabi.

“I’m always thinking about how a technology will change the way people think about the tasks they’re doing or what biases may occur for or against an emerging technology, such as machine learning or artificial intelligence,” said Mendoza. “It’s so rewarding to watch students go from not knowing what a programming language is to conducting complicated machine learning analysis by the end of the program.

“I also make it a point to acknowledge when a topic is going to be particularly challenging and that it’s OK to be struggling,” said Mendoza, who added that she engages learners by breaking down concepts into the most basic building blocks possible. “What I love most about teaching is watching a student transform and change the trajectory of their lives – whether it’s starting their first job or returning to earn a graduate degree that will take their career to a new level."

As the director of the University of Illinois-Deloitte Foundation Center for Business Analytics, Mendoza applies this teaching approach on a global scale. The Center, which was established in 2016, provides leading-edge ideas and curriculum that aim to revolutionize how schools teach business analytics to future business professionals. She partners with Gies Data Analytics Scholars to design content that provides students with data science knowledge, skills, and abilities to take on leadership roles in the quickly evolving world of business analytics.

“It’s a challenge and a privilege to impact students’ lives through access to cutting-edge data analytics curriculum,” said Mendoza. “Our goal for the future is to extend the center’s reach across the entire learning spectrum – from high school students to working professionals.”