Paula Bevels Thomas has deep roots at MTSU. She earned both her Bachelor of Business Administration and her Master of Science degrees in accounting from MTSU and has served as a member of the accounting faculty for over 30 years. Dr. Thomas currently holds the Deloitte Foundation Professorship in Accounting in the Jennings A. Jones College of Business, an honor bestowed upon her for her successful efforts in instilling knowledge and professionalism in her students and preparing them for a career in accounting.
Dr. Thomas began her professional career as a staff accountant in the Nashville office of Arthur Andersen. After spending time in public accounting and earning her CPA license, she moved to the banking industry. She created and headed the internal audit department at Union National Bank in Fayetteville, Tennessee. Dr. Thomas’ interest in teaching began when she was asked to teach an evening section of Principles of Accounting at a local community college. After teaching night classes for two years while still working in banking, Dr. Thomas decided to pursue an academic career on a full-time basis and earned her D.B.A. in Accounting at Mississippi State University.
Dr. Thomas has served MTSU in numerous capacities during her time on campus and has been actively involved in teaching, research, and service. She currently teaches a variety of financial accounting courses and has worked with her colleagues to develop multiple new courses to ensure the continued relevance of the accounting curriculum. She developed and currently teaches the graduate capstone class in the MAcc program. Dr. Thomas has also worked extensively with accounting curriculum issues at the national level. She chaired the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Core Competency Framework Committee and has chaired and served on numerous educational committees and task forces for both the American Institute of CPAs and the American Accounting Association.
An active scholar, Dr. Thomas has published over 40 articles on a variety of accounting issues in academic and professional journals, including Accounting Horizons, Journal of Accountancy, Advances in Accounting, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Directors Monthly, Tennessee Society of CPAs Journal, Advances in Public Interest Accounting, and Journal of Corporate Accounting and Finance. Dr. Thomas served a three-year term as Associate Editor for Issues in Accounting Education, one of the top journals in accounting education in the United States. Her research on cash-balance pensions was a resource for IBM employees who were concerned about their reduced pension benefits resulting from IBM’s pension plan conversions. She has presented academic papers to educators in the United States and other countries. Holding the belief that academics have an obligation to share their knowledge beyond university walls, Dr. Thomas frequently provides technical and professional issues updates to practitioners throughout the country. She also speaks annually at MTSU’s Accounting Alumni Appreciation Day.
Dr. Thomas has provided extensive service to MTSU, having both served on and chaired numerous department, college, and university committees. She has chaired the Department of Accounting Faculty Recruiting Committee for many years with the goal of recruiting top faculty to MTSU. Her views and opinions are valued by her colleagues; they have consistently chosen her to serve on Tenure and Promotion Committees at both the college and departmental levels.
As the Department Chair and Advisory Board Distinguished Professor for the years 2002-2007, she successfully led the Department through its initial AACSB separate accounting accreditation process. At the time the Department earned accreditation in 2004, only 165 college and university programs worldwide held this distinction. Ten years later, only 181 programs have earned both accounting and business accreditation.
Student success has always been one of Dr. Thomas’s priorities. Since stepping down as Department Chair, Dr. Thomas assumed responsibility as faculty advisor for Beta Alpha Psi, an international honor organization for financial information students and professionals. During her time as faculty advisor, MTSU’s chapter transitioned to an award-seeking chapter and last year earned Superior Chapter status, which is the highest designation that can be earned through service and professional activities. For the first time in the chapter’s history, her students participated in the Deloitte Best Practices competitions. Last year’s student team won first place at the regional level and second place at the national level. Dr. Thomas thrives on seeing her former students succeed; several are now partners in international, regional, and local CPA firms, and others have reached a variety of senior management positions. She works diligently to maintain contact with these graduates, resulting in those alumni returning to campus to share their knowledge and experience to better prepare current students for a career in accounting.
Throughout her career, Dr. Thomas has maintained strong involvement with the accounting profession as well as the business community. At the national level, Dr. Thomas is an active member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. When appointed to serve a three-year term on that organization’s Board of Directors, she was the only academic appointee on the 23-member board, and the first person from Tennessee ever selected. She is currently serving a second term on the Board of Examiners which has oversight responsibility for the Uniform CPA exam that is administered in the United States and internationally. Dr. Thomas has served on numerous other committees and task forces of both the American Institute of CPAs and the American Accounting Association. At the state and local level, she is an active member of the Tennessee Society of Certified Public Accountants; she has served as that organization’s Treasurer, Council Member, and Finance Committee Member. She is a member of the Board of Directors at MidSouth Bank, where she chairs the Audit Committee, and is designated as a financial expert for regulatory financial statement filings. She is an active member of the Nashville Chapter of Women Corporate Directors, a global organization of women corporate directors. Dr. Thomas has been involved in several local community organizations, including the YMCA Board of Directors and Richard Siegel Foundation Trustees.
Dr. Thomas has earned numerous awards and recognitions. She was the first woman to receive the American Institute of CPAs Distinguished Achievement in Accounting Education Award – the highest national award given to an accounting educator. Among her many other awards are the Tennessee Society of CPAs Lifetime Achievement in Accounting Education Award, the MTSU Faculty Public Service Award and the MTSU College of Business Outstanding Faculty Award. She earned the Tennessee Society of CPAs Outstanding Discussion Leader Award in two consecutive years and also received that organization’s Outstanding Educator Award. Most recently, she was inducted into Nashville CABLE’s Board Walk Hall of Fame.
Throughout her career, Dr. Thomas’s numerous and ongoing accomplishments in teaching, research, and service have brought national and international recognition to MTSU. She has succeeded in working with a wide range of constituents – both inside and out of the classroom – to impact their lives in a positive way.
Dr. Paula Bevels Thomas is a most worthy recipient of the MTSU 2014 Career Achievement Award.
CREATIVE ACTIVITY AWARD