Professor of the Year Ryan Douglas
July 14, 2022
Contact: Rhonda Jessup, Director of Public Relations
Accounting Instructor Ryan Douglas has earned the honor of University of Mount Olive (UMO) Dr. Thomas R. Morris Professor of the Year. He was one of two UMO professors to earn the prestigious title.
Douglas joined UMO in August of 2018. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Douglas holds the positions of Tillman School of Business (TSB) Internship Coordinator and Divisional Chair of Accounting & Computer Information Systems.
Born and raised in Missouri, Douglas and his wife, Heather, and their two daughters, Makaela (8) and Madelyn (10) now reside in Hampstead, NC. Douglas earned his BS degree in accounting and his MBA from Northwest Missouri State University. He is on track to earn is doctorate of business administration in December of 2022.
Prior to higher education, Douglas spent most of his working career in accounting in the software industry, as well as engineering and utilities. “Being a professor was never on my radar until tutoring a co-worker in Microsoft Excel so she could pass an exam,” he revealed. The coworker passed, and the experience was so gratifying, that Douglas knew he wanted to teach full-time. His career in higher education began at Grantham University (now University of Arkansas – Grantham), where he earned Faculty of the Year honors in 2015.
UMO Director of Public Relations Rhonda Jessup had a Q & A session with Douglas to find out more about the two-time teaching award winner.
What does being the UMO Professor of the Year mean to you?
I am very honored to be professor of the year. It is important to me that my students are enjoying my classes and gaining knowledge to help them in their future careers. I truly enjoy my job and I always hope my students enjoy my class as much as I enjoy having them as students.
What are your greatest strengths as an educator?
My jokes! Ha ha! I think my teaching style boils down to three approaches: (1) I want to prepare my students for their careers with knowledge that they can’t gain from a textbook. Therefore, I try to incorporate my professional experience in the classroom. (2) I try to be approachable, so students are not afraid to ask questions. In my experience, the best learning environment is one where everyone feels welcome and respected. (3) I try to break complex concepts and terms into more simplistic language. Accountants are notorious for using a $200 word to describe a $20 concept. I like to be plain-spoken in the classroom and simplistic in teaching complicated subjects. Once the students and I have constructed a foundation of knowledge, we can begin to learn more-advanced material.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I’ve always enjoy watching my students succeed. That never gets old. I’m not talking about just watching them get a good grade. I thoroughly enjoy watching them get a great internship or land the full-time job they have always wanted. One concept I always discuss in class is to begin investing their money as early as possible and then invest small amounts each month. When a student comes to class and tells me they opened a Roth IRA and that he or she is already contributing money to it, that really makes my day.
What or who inspires you every day?
Obviously, my wife and daughters inspire me every single day. Just by being a father and husband makes me better than who I am. I will never be able to thank them enough for that. Outside of my immediate family, I am very blessed to have a great extended family. My parents always worked hard in their professions and strived hard to provide opportunities for my siblings and me. My late mother was a high school business teacher and gave me my first teaching opportunity as a substitute teacher while I was in graduate school. My dad was always available to coach my sports teams or help me with my homework. My grandparents were always very involved while I was growing up. I remember my grandfather taking me to the bank as a kid, because he knew I was a natural finance nerd. I also have aunts and uncles who supported me through the years with different experiences and advice.
So many students admire you, how do you make those connections?
I try to make connections with students by being genuinely interested in their success. One of the benefits of being an educator is your students’ success is your success.
How would your students describe you and your enthusiasm for your subject matter?
I am complete accounting nerd. I like organizing numbers and analyzing financial data to arrive at conclusions. I also believe knowing how money works is not just for business people, but is a vital life skill. Everyone needs to know how to invest their money and the power of compound interest. The ignorance of monetary issues can cause problems. Understanding how to save for retirement, read financial statements, balance a checkbook, purchase insurance policies, and fill out a tax form improves an individual’s quality of life and reduces stress.
What would students be surprised to know about you?
I think students are always surprised to realize each of their professors have been in their shoes. We’ve all been nervous before an exam or unsure if we’ll be able to perform in a class.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenge in higher education today?
I believe the biggest challenge in higher education is to encourage students to push through short-term discomfort today in order to reap benefits later in life.
How does faith play a role in your job as an educator?
Faith is a very important role in my job as an educator. I believe everyone is made in God’s image and has their own God-given talents. I realize not everyone in my class is excited about accounting or naturally gifted with numbers. However, I know they are talented in other areas where I would struggle. Therefore, every student deserves the professor’s attention even if it seems the effort is in vain. You never know if that extra effort you made with a student will blossom later in life. I have teachers who have made an impact on me, who probably never realized they made a difference.
What do you like most about working at UMO?
Hands-down, the best part of UMO is the people. I enjoy working with everyone from my fellow faculty members, staff, administration, and the students. As you walk the hallways, one can easily grasp the sense everyone cares about one another. There is no caste systems at UMO. Everyone is on equal ground while trying to improve ourselves and become better citizens.
What advice would you give to new educators?
Approach your job with enthusiasm and energy! If we are excited to educate students, then they will be excited to learn from us. Also, try not to get discouraged when you don’t see the results you’re going after. Energy used to help students is never wasted!
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University is sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.