Nina Dorata, Ph.D., CPA, '79CBA, '88MBA
Accounting Professor Encourages Experiential Learning for Students
“St. John’s is the perfect incubator for teaching students how to connect with people from different cultures,” said Nina Dorata, Ph.D., CPA, '79CBA, '88MBA, Associate Professor in Accounting and Taxation in The Peter J. Tobin College of Business (TCB).
Dr. Dorata sees the University’s diverse student population as one of its many assets, and uses it as a learning tool in the classroom. “When I split the class into groups for assignments, I intentionally put them into situations where they may not feel entirely comfortable,” said the native of Queens, NY. “They’re learning people skills without even being aware of it.”
Connecting with Students
A self-described “hands-on” instructor, Dr. Dorata uses her distinctive teaching style to connect with students enrolled in the University’s Accounting and Taxation program. “A lot of what we teach in accounting is driven by procedures and established theoretical standards,” she said. Despite the rigid curriculum, she likes to move around the room and engage her students. “I don’t do the traditional ‘chalk-talk.’”
Dr. Dorata often uses the financial information lab for classes so students can use the desktop PCs while working together. She has also employed interactive personal response clickers in class, something students enjoy. “By clicking in their answers and getting instant feedback, everyone knows instantly if they understand the material or not.”
Preparation for their Profession
Always seeking out novel ways to give her students valuable professional experience, Dr. Dorata played an instrumental role in introducing St. John’s students to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in 2007. VITA provides free tax preparation services for New Yorkers with limited means.
“VITA provides students with a great opportunity to follow the Vincentian Heritage and apply what they learn in the classroom to a real-world situation,” she said. The VITA program has recruited more than 300 student volunteers and generated over $10 million in tax refunds since its inception. “By working with clients from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds,” she noted, “students strengthen their communication skills, too.”
Dr. Dorata recently led a group of St. John’s students to their first-ever appearance in KPMG’s International Case Competition in Philadelphia, where they placed second in the regional round. “They learned how to think on their feet, present a case and make a strong argument for it,” she said. “Most of all, they gained valuable exposure to potential employers.”
When students graduate from St. John’s and enter the job market, Dr. Dorata takes comfort in knowing that she has prepared them to succeed. “We give them so much professional experience as students that they have an edge during the interview process,” she said. “When potential employers ask them about a particular area, they can say ‘I’ve done that already.’”