DUNMORE, Pa. — Penn State Scranton Lecturer in Accounting Angela Bassani is now Assistant Teaching Professor of Accounting Angela Bassani.
Bassani recently fulfilled a longtime goal upon receiving her doctor of education in educational leadership and management from Drexel University. The accomplishment comes with a promotion to the rank of assistant teaching professor at Penn State Scranton.
Bassani took the accelerated route and completed the doctorate in a little over three years. Her dissertation, “Exploring the Experiences of Accounting Graduates Who Have Participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program in Northeast Pennsylvania: A Case Study,” came out of her longtime work as the director of the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties’ VITA program.
“My dissertation committee was very supportive and excited about my work from the start of the process to the final defense,” Bassani said. “Despite being nervous prior to my final defense, it ended up being a very positive and celebratory experience. I was extremely excited when they welcomed me back into the room to congratulate me on my successful defense and new title of Dr. Bassani!”
Bassani carefully weighed her options before picking a doctoral program. While she knew a Ph.D. or DBA (doctor of business administration) would allow her to hone her skills as a scholar to contribute to the accounting field, she also wanted to further develop her teaching abilities. And, it was crucial that she would still be able to work full-time while pursuing the degree.
Eventually, she determined Drexel checked all of the boxes.
“Drexel is an R1 research institution with an excellent reputation, and after speaking to faculty in its Ed.D. program, I felt I would be challenged to become a better educator, leader and researcher,” Bassani said. “After my first semester there, I knew I made the right decision. I noticed a difference in my teaching and committee work immediately due to the things I was taking from my Drexel experience. Not only was I learning from the experienced Drexel faculty members, but I was also gleaning ideas and adding to my own ‘toolbox’ from fellow peers in my doctoral cohort who came from a variety of backgrounds and brought much experience to the table.”
Based on her decade working with accounting students taking part in the VITA program, which provides free income tax preparation services to low-income local families and individuals, she realized she had the makings of a great dissertation. Seeing the transformation that students undergo while both providing a valuable public service and learning valuable on-the-job skills in a real-world context made her a strong proponent of service learning, which tends to be prevalent in higher education fields such as healthcare and education but less so in business programs.
Digging through the available literature to narrow her research focus, Bassani found that accounting professionals tend to perceive a skills gap in recent accounting graduates. Essentially, they assume graduates possess adequate technical abilities in the field, but lack necessary soft skills such as ethics, professionalism, decision making, collaboration, leadership and communication.
“As an accounting professor, it is very important to me that my students graduate with well-rounded skills that make them ready to contribute to the workforce and society as a whole,” Bassani said. “So, I decided that I would like to begin to fill in a hole in the literature that addressed whether or not participation in service learning, such as the VITA program, could help to address the skills gap that is being identified by the accounting profession. I also wanted to explore the impact that participation in the VITA program had on accounting students after graduation as they pursued their first jobs and entered the accounting field.”
Bassani was able to complete the degree’s requirements with just minimal travel to Drexel’s Philadelphia campus. That said, the work was often grueling, especially during tax season when she was trying to balance it with the demands of the VITA program and teaching.
A dutiful planner, Bassani spent her Sunday mornings mapping out every hour of her week. Free time became an almost non-existent luxury, but she persevered through plenty of support from family, friends and members of the campus community, among them Chief Academic Officer H. Durell Johnson and Business Program Coordinator James Wilkerson.
Of course, it also helped that she found the work itself to be tremendously gratifying.
“When you are passionate about what you do, you have a different kind of energy you can thrive off of, and that certainly helped me survive when things were difficult,” said Bassani, noting she uses herself as an example when motivating students to improve their time management skills.
Looking back on her doctoral journey, Bassani is extremely proud of the strides she’s made as an educator and scholar.
“Based on my findings, I’m even more excited and grateful for the opportunity to bring my accounting students out into the field with me through their work in the VITA program. While VITA is a national program, there are very few programs that can compete with ours that we have built here in Northeast Pennsylvania in terms of size and magnitude,” she said.
“Many universities do not offer VITA, especially at such a comprehensive level due to how difficult and time-consuming it is for faculty to manage. I truly hope my study adds something to the literature and helps to motivate accounting faculty and higher education administrators to support the development of the VITA program, for their students and their community. Although admittedly difficult and sometimes tiring, I find the benefits to be well worth the costs.
“Being a faculty member at Penn State offers so many opportunities for involvement and leadership, and I look forward to exploring them now that I have more time,” she continued. “I am extremely passionate about higher education, and truly feel that is where I’m meant to be."