When junior Thomas Mullen’s parents told him to take an accounting class, he warned them the inevitable drop in his GPA would be their fault.
An economics and applied math double major, Mullen agreed to take accounting — a “very important life skill” according to his parents — and signed up for Principles of Accounting I with Instructor in Accounting Deanna Mackie, who began her first semester teaching at Hillsdale just as Mullen was starting his foray into the world of financial statements and loan amortization.
As Mullen expected, the class was difficult. But it ended in a way that he didn’t expect, all because of Professor Mackie’s office hours.
“I think during finals week I probably spent three to six hours in office hours with her and changed my grade all the way from a C to a B/B+, which is no credit to me at all,” Mullen said. “It was just her taking the time to break down what was going on and then making sure I got it.”
Mackie, who left a job as financial systems support analyst for Cabela’s, Inc. to become a professor at Hillsdale last August, has already spent hours with students outside of class, rehearsing concepts like dollar-value LIFO with her students until they’re confident in their knowledge.
“I’d say, ‘I’m having trouble with Chapter 8,’” Mullen said, “and she’d pull out a piece of paper, write ‘Chapter 8’ at the top, and start from the beginning and work all the way to the end to make sure I got the whole thing.”
Sophomore Caylee McComb had a similar experience with Professor Mackie.
“She met with me every Tuesday morning before class last semester to answer any questions I had and to clarify material I didn’t understand,” McComb said. “The one-on-one help sessions allowed me to gain a better insight of the course material prior to lectures.”
In addition to working in the corporate world for years — her first job out of college took her to Deloitte, one of the Big Four accounting firms — Mackie has also spent time teaching at both University of Nebraska and Hamilton College in Omaha.
Since she moved to Michigan about eight years ago, she’s been working for Cabela’s from home. Transitioning to teaching a classroom of college students, in some ways, is still less frantic than corporate finance.
“Ten emails a day is pretty good when you’re used to 10 emails in 10 minutes,” Mackie said.
Sophomore Jackson Frerichs, an accounting major, is taking his second accounting class with Mackie this semester. He said the textbooks overwhelm students with information, but Mackie’s firsthand experience allows her to point out what’s important to know.
“It’s really nice to have people who have real-world experience, especially for something like accounting that’s kind of technical,” Frerichs said. “We just had a class last week where she was talking about loan amortization schedules, and she was saying, ‘This is something you will do a lot in the real world.’”
Frerichs is in Intermediate Accounting II, but of the three classes Mackie teaches this semester, she said Principles of Accounting is her favorite.
“I call it a ‘lightbulb moment class’ because when a student gets it, there are times you almost literally can see the lightbulb come on,” Mackie said.
In addition to teaching and spending hours tutoring students in office hours, Mackie is also advising the two student groups the college will send this year to the ACG Cup, an annual case study competition that teaches students the processes of mergers and acquisitions.
Mackie says she enjoys exploring Hillsdale and the surrounding area as she drives her children to sporting events. Her husband, David Mackie, is the city manager of Hillsdale. They have three children: Emily, Weston, and Hudson, none of whom have expressed interest in accounting — yet. But, since Hudson is in third grade, she said “it’s too early to tell” if he’ll follow her career.