2021 Best Undergraduate Professors: Serena Loftus, Kent State University

Serena Loftus

Kent State University

“Caring, passionate, knowledgeable, all around incredible teacher.” – Bobby Shove

Serena Loftus, 34, is Assistant Professor of Accounting at Kent State University, where she has worked since Fall 2021. She was nominated and evaluated for this award for her time at Tulane University.

She has a PhD in Business Administration, Accounting from the University of Washington Foster School of Business. She also has a Master in Professional Accounting, a BA and a BBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She currently teaches Intermediate Financial Accounting II at Kent State and previously taught Managerial Accounting. 

In her research, she studies how managers’ language choices impact investors’ and employees’ reactions to accounting information. She has been published by top-level journals including Accounting, Organizations, and Society and The Accounting Review and has appeared in prominent news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Workspan, Strategic Finance Magazine, and Investor Relations Magazine. She’s won multiple outstanding and best reviewer awards and the 2018 Dean’s Excellence in Teaching of Undergraduates Award winner from Tulane University. 

Professor Loftus was the kindest, most accommodating professor I have ever had. She went out of her way to make sure we were all learning and having fun in the process,” student Mackenzie Clark writes in her nomination. “She made me love my accounting class, a class I never thought I would enjoy. Being an athlete, I often miss classes due to travel and am writing for alternative times to take tests. Professor Loftus always made accommodations for me and my teammates. She is also the nicest human being ever.”


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…  I was exposed to accounting research as an undergraduate student. I was fortunate to work as a Research Assistant for Professor Michael Williamson at the University of Texas at Austin. I loved the research process and was eager to pursue an academic career. I am forever grateful to Professor Williamson for showing me how fun research can be! 

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My research explores how accounting information is used to communicate with investors and employees. For instance, I find that managers’ language and framing choices influence the way investors and employees react to the accounting numbers. My most significant findings to date show that even managers’ pronouns like “I” vs. “we” can impact how investors interpret financial data. My more recent research is focused on how employees react to accounting information, including information that emphasize corporate values or sustainability objectives. 

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… a statistician or actuary. I love analyzing data and investigating the story that the data reveals.  

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? This is a hard one to answer, because I feel that I am lucky to have been surrounded by outstanding professors for my entire teaching career. So it is hard to stand out! I enjoy getting to know the students each semester and guide them through an effective accounting learning journey. I try to understand what each student needs and the unique gifts that each student brings to the table. My aim is to see and value my students as people.

I place a lot of emphasis on belongingness in the classroom. My classes are an important stepping stone in students’ transition into becoming business professionals, and my aim is to welcome students into the accounting profession and develop their professional skills. I also expect students to treat each other as professionals, colleagues, and collaborators and to view my class as the first step in establishing their future professional network. I incorporate a lot of team-building and professional development activities into my classes. 

I like to use a lot of visual aids in my teaching. For example, I developed a comic strip for my Intermediate Accounting class that I use to introduce each technical topic and I try to make my review pages visually interesting (i.e., a literal roadmap of journal entries). 

One word that describes my first time teaching: Stressful! There is so much stuff to remember – the clicker, the slides, the handouts, the name tents. It took me a long time to get organized and to get my systems in place so that I can focus on enjoying the experience without worrying about forgetting things. 

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Every professor and student has unique skills and strengths, and there are many ways to succeed! Stop worrying about all the things that are not your strengths or the things that you think you should be doing and focus on the areas where you shine. 

Professor I most admire and why: I have been lucky to work with so many fantastic professors who deeply care about both their students and the accounting profession Thinking of my own personal experiences, I am always inspired by Professor Kristina Zvinakis who was my professor for several tax accounting courses as an undergraduate and Master’s student. She held us to high standards and she cared deeply about our success both in the classroom and in our chosen careers. Like her, I aim to be perceived as “tough,” fair”, and “cares,” and she has greatly inspired me in my teaching. I also draw a lot of inspiration from my colleagues throughout my teaching career – Professors RZ Zhang and Hila Fogel-Yaari for their unending patience and kindness, Professors Jonathan Jona and Tim West for their creativity and active-learning strategies, and Professors Bob Bowen and Dawn Matsumoto for their ability to clearly explain complex material. 


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Business students are future business leaders! I am honored to teach students who will become future decision makers. 

What is most challenging? Accounting is very technical, and it is easy for students to get lost in the details and calculations. The hardest part is trying to stay focused on the big picture of what the accounting question is and why it matters without overwhelming students with the how of debits and credits. 

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Engaged! Students who are inquisitive and try to connect the classroom material to real-world problems. 

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student:  We often see students both at their best and at their worst. I view my students as people, people who sometimes have bad days, people who are still learning and growing, people who, like all of us, are imperfect. Not all personalities are compatible, but every person is worthy of respect. 

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Rigorous, transparent, straightforward, and fair. The material is hard and exams are challenging. But I hope students feel like they have the tools they need to succeed and are confident that their efforts will pay off both in the classroom and in their future careers. 


What are your hobbies? Music and dance are very important to me. I like the outdoors and hike quite a bit. I also like to stay active and am currently learning Taekwondo with my seven-year-old! At home, I enjoy reading and walking with my dogs. 

How will you spend your summer?! I do research in the summers, so I will be analyzing data and writing manuscripts.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Scotland! I grew up in Glasgow and try to visit whenever possible. My absolute favorite places to visit are the Isle of Skye and the Scottish coastline. To me, it is the most breathtakingly beautiful, rugged, and temperamental countryside. It also reminds me of lots of fun family trips when I was a child…most of them involving the sudden appearance of rain! 

Favorite book(s): So many! I love detective fiction, especially when it involves history. I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie and the Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. I enjoy historical adventure novels like Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon or Sharpe stories and Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd. I also read a lot of historical non-fiction. Right now, I am very interested in the accounting systems used for tax collection in Ancient Egypt. 

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Anything sci-fi. My all-time favorite is the 2004 remake of Battlestar Galactica because it involves so many interesting philosophical themes and questions. I also enjoy watching historical-based shows like Rome or Vikings and getting transported to another time. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Currently, my pump-up music is mostly Disney soundtracks! I love all the classics…Moana, Frozen, Brave. I am pretty obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack as well – my family listens to it on long car trips.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Tolerance. Not just tolerance for others, but also encouraging students to be gentle with themselves as they learn and grow into business leaders. Leadership is not easy and there are many setbacks. We need to be more tolerant of our own challenges, as fear of failure can cripple progress and hinder innovation. 

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at…Give employees a “why” – a reason why their work matters. We spend so much time at work and people want to know that their work is important, and that it improves the world in some small way.

I’m grateful for… my husband and son, my family, my friends, and my health.


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