If Debbie Jeffery’s students were to grade her, the result would likely be a high distinction.
Debbie's teaching approach
The highly innovative Associate Lecturer in accounting at the UQ Business School and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy isn’t afraid to go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure her classes are engaging, enjoyable and educational.
“I want students to find the courses I teach interesting, so I’m always trying to devise new and different ways to present the materials,” says Debbie.
“For example, I devised an electronic workbook that students use before they come to the lecture, so I’m not standing, talking at them for 2 hours. Instead, I’m talking with them, getting them to do activities as I walk around the class numerous times to see how they’re doing. I also get students to work together in lectures and tutorials."
“The students say they really enjoy it, that they find it quite refreshing to come to a lecture and be learning more than they thought they would.”
From financial controller to inspirational lecturer
Lecturing was not Debbie’s first career move. She began her professional life at a major accounting firm and possesses qualifications as a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
After 5 years gaining fantastic industry experience, she then worked in London as a financial controller for a management consulting firm, which provided wide exposure to financial systems in an array of nations.
However, for all the individual accolades she was able to achieve, Debbie found equal – if not greater – reward in turning her love of teaching into a fresh career direction.
“My proudest moment was when a student who struggled at the start of their course came to see me for guidance on how they should study,” she reveals.
“It was a first-year student, straight out of high school. They were struggling to deal with uni life and how to balance coursework, their personal life and work-life all at once. It pleased me to see that student take on board some of my ideas and suggestions to the point where they came back later and said ‘Thank you. I have had a fantastic experience, and this will continue to help me as I progress throughout my studies and career’."
“One of my heroes was a first-year accounting student with a disability who came to lectures and tutorials every week and always participated fully in activities. In the end, they also said they’d had a fantastic experience at UQ. It’s difficult not to be moved by that sentiment.”
Preparing for the future of commerce
So, in the face of an ever-changing world and constantly evolving industry, what does Debbie believe the keys to achieving career success in commerce will be?
“I think some of the biggest trends are around adaptability and students who can go into the workforce and adapt to any situation," says Debbie.
"Trends like big data and artificial intelligence still need people who can interpret the output and offer sound advice about what a company should do."
“We’re preparing students by giving them the skills and knowledge they need, but we’re also giving them unique experiences they wouldn’t get elsewhere. One of those is the Bloomberg Trading Room, where students get to buy and sell shares in real time.”