2018 Top 50 Undergraduate Professors: Nermeen Shehata, The American University in Cairo

Nermeen Shehata

Assistant Professor of Accounting

The American University in Cairo

Nermeen Shehata’s contributions to the field of corporate governance are globally recognized. In 2013, this professor of accounting from The American University in Cairo prepared two international reports on corporate governance disclosure in Egypt and the Gulf countries which then led to her being the youngest and only Arab speaker at the 30th ISAR (Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting) meeting of The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In 2014, she became the first Egyptian professor to receive the Emerald/EFMD (European Foundation for Management Development) MENA (Middle East North Africa) Management Research Fund Award on her research on corporate governance disclosure in the MENA region. She was also awarded the prestigious Rising Star of Corporate Governance Award at the 2015 Millstein Governance Forum at Columbia University, presented by the Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership at Columbia Law School.

Despite her status as an internationally recognized and award winning expert, Professor Shehata remains committed to the classroom and her students. Not only is she said to be engaging and takes care to ensure students are understanding the course material, she also offers an abundance of office hours for outside help. Finally, Shehata is said to be an inspiration to undergraduate business students, particularly female students who admire her track record of success in a mostly male-dominated field.

Shehata is the youngest Egyptian professor to receive the Millstein Center Rising Star of Corporate Governance Award and the Trust Across America’s 2018 Top Thought Leaders in Trust.

Age: 35

Education: PhD in Management, Accounting concentration, Aston Business School

At current institution since: 2013

List of courses you currently teach: Intermediate Accounting I, and Advanced Accounting

Twitter handle: I don’t have a Twitter account. Facebook is already too much for me!

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Presenting my research in a UN meeting; that was the 30th Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (ISAR) meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when” I finished my undergraduate studies with the highest honors and knew that I was going to be appointed as a TA according to the recruitment system in Egyptian public universities. The funny thing is that I used to say I will never accept that position; meanwhile, I aimed to work hard only to get the highest honors while I enjoyed helping my friends during my four years of college. I used to explain things for them multiple times without any sense of boredom; on the contrary, I enjoyed that feeling of helping others figure out some mysteries they assumed. This was when I realised that I could not only be a professor but also excel in it and the public post was a sign that this was the path I should follow.

“One word that describes my first time teaching:” worried

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Corporate governance is my main research interest. I am currently working on the impact of board diversity on various aspects of firm performance. So far, I have found that diversity, generally speaking, positively affects firm performance in developed and equally developing countries.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? After having a long conversation with a student who did not have a good grade in an exam. She kept saying that she knew she always failed in whatever she attempted to do regardless of the effort she put. I then kept telling her that everyone is outstanding in something which could never be the academia or their own studies and kept pushing her to think of what she liked most and what she did best in her life. This was a very long conversation where she cried a lot, then before leaving my office, I was so surprised and touched when she told me “Dr., I would like to ask you for something before leaving, may I please give you a hug?!”

Since you first started teaching, how has business education changed? Business education is very dynamic; new topics and new teaching tools have always been there and will continue to evolve.

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be a partner in a Big-4 accounting firm.

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a professor”: If you want a research paper to get published in top journals, then it would take you years to work on one!

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? I enjoy how I help students explore new topics and concepts. I enjoy the conversations I have with my students outside the class and I relish how I support them and acknowledge their success in whatever they love and are good at other than academia.

What’s the biggest challenge? Changing students’ perception towards accounting

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? Actually, they were three students who studied two degrees in parallel: one degree to fulfill their own desire and the other one to satisfy their parents. That is extremely impressive!

What is the least favorite thing one has done? A student printed out an assignment with his friend’s name, crossed the name out and wrote down his own, and the two names were there on the same submitted assignment!

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Students should attend all classes, understand the concepts, take notes and practice on their own.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as” fair

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student: Ambitious  

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Lazy

“If my students can easily relate the concepts taught in class to their practical application, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

Fun fact about yourself: Whenever I have a break, I buy myself a jigsaw puzzle

What are your hobbies? Going for walks enjoying a nice landscape, especially by the Nile and in gardens, playing chess, jigsaw and suduko puzzles.

How did you spend your summer? I traveled to the UK to attend a conference then had a nice break there, spent some time at the beach, and prepared my tenure file!

Favorite place to vacation: Geneva

Favorite book: The Alchemist

Favorite movie and/or television show: Assal Eswed (An Egyptian movie)

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: All pieces by the amazing Omar Khairat

Bucket list item #1: Running a marathon

What’s the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment? I think the biggest challenge is coping with the dynamic technological changes that affect businesses and should frequently be addressed in various curricula.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more”: having all students participate in extracurricular activities, go for a one-semester internship and a semester abroad.

“And much less of”: students caring only for their GPAs.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you: watching my former students succeeding in whatever paths they drew for themselves and having them visiting my classes again as guest speakers.

Students say…

“Excellent teaching skills made me grasp the material very smoothly, and the way she structured the course ensured that all students stay on track, while enjoying the class. Besides her great contributions to research and awarded corporate governance publications, Dr. Nermeen always dedicated the time, and effort to help us, and make sure we comprehend the course.”

“She is the one kind of professor that encourages us to balance our social life and university life. Yes, grades are important but also your social life.”

“I find that Dr. Nermeen Shehata is the most effective professor I have had. She is crystal clear when explaining concepts and new ideas and shows the qualities of a hard working and determined educator. In my opinion, she sets an example for what it means to be a professional educator in her interactions with individuals within the classroom and shows great care about the progress of her students, both in her course and outside of her course. I have been a student for most of my life and I could quite confidently say, Dr. Nermeen Shehata is among the best educators I have ever come across.”

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