Wei and Ge: Shared Experience, Academic Focus
In this second installment of our mentorship series commemorating National Mentorship Month, we explore the influence a mentor has on the trajectory of a mentee’s career path.
Yingfeng (Valentina) Ge, BSBA’20, MAC’21, moved from her home in Shaoxing, Zhejiang in China when she was just 16 years old to attend private high school in Kansas. Welcomed by what she describes as Midwestern warmth and kindness and seeking a personalized college experience, she decided to continue her education at Creighton. Its Jesuit character, strong academics and small class size appealed to her.
“The low student-to-faculty ratio allowed me to build personal relationships with professors,” Ge says, professors like Sijing Wei, PhD, assistant professor of accounting in the Heider College of Business, who also left China to pursue higher education.
Wei originally thought her future career centered on chemistry, but she quickly learned it was not her passion. Since switching majors in China was both difficult and costly, she decided to start afresh in the United States. Like Ge, she ended up at a Midwestern Jesuit institution, St. Louis University. But unlike Ge, she spoke little English. She spent a mere semester learning the language in which all of her classes were conducted.
Accounting is difficult enough. Add a language barrier, and difficult becomes nearly impossible. But Wei had a professor who acknowledged her challenge and went out of her way to help Wei succeed. In fact, Wei says this professor was like a mother to her. When she’d meet with her, her administrative assistant would call the professor, saying, “Your baby is here!”
“She was a role model of how to care for a student,” Wei says. “It’s how I want to treat my students now. I come from the one child generation in China. I never had brothers and sisters. I treat my students like my younger siblings,” offering them guidance and taking an interest in who they are as individuals.
Every semester, Wei meets with each student one-on-one for at least 30 minutes to talk, to get to know them personally, to learn about their interests, their families, their career goals and their time at Creighton. It’s how she met Ge, who was enrolled in Wei’s Introduction to Financial Accounting course.
Like the majority of accounting students, Ge thought about the CPA path and a career in public accounting. But the more research discussions she had with Wei, the more exposure she had to an alternative path – research and academia.
Wei not only became her academic advisor (which “turned out to be one of the most grateful decisions that I have ever made,” says Ge), she became her research mentor as well. The two started with literature reviews before progressing on to data collection and cleaning and eventually co-authoring a paper.
“The first few papers were arcane as I did not understand what those authors were talking about. I felt frustrated, but Dr. Wei encouraged me to take baby steps and not push myself too hard,” Ge recalls.
The two would meet for several hours weekly to discuss the readings; share thoughts on such topics as corporate social responsibility, accounting information’s influence on stakeholders’ decisions, ethical leadership and career satisfaction; and eventually conduct research.
In particular, Ge had the opportunity to assist one of Wei’s working research papers and presented the preliminary results at the Business, Economic, Environment and Policy (BEEP) Seminar hosted by the Institute of Economic Inquiry. Later, Wei invited Ge to co-author an academic paper on which Wei, fellow Heider professor Regina Taylor, PhD, associate professor of management, and other external scholars were working. The paper looks at how ethical firms influence employee perceptions and is currently under review by the Journal of Business Ethics.
“This offered me a glimpse into the world of research presentations. This first venture into accounting scholarship has affirmed my passion for financial accounting and managerial accounting,” says Ge. “Although moving from idea to published manuscript can be daunting, I am excited to take this intellectual challenge.
“Having Dr. Wei as my mentor and advisor opened a door to a new world where I realized that studying accounting can have so many great alternative career paths besides working as a public accountant,” Ge continues. “She helped me focus on research, strengthened my analytical and critical thinking skills, created precious opportunities to present and co-author a few research projects together and prepared me well to be a more competitive applicant to doctoral programs.”
For Wei, it has been rewarding to see Ge’s growth, both academically and personally. She says her student’s incredible work ethic and attitude inspire her, and her contribution to research has been valuable.
“Yingfeng asks such good, penetrating and intriguing questions, some of them that I have not thought of,” Wei says. “She has definitely enriched the research.”
Ge is currently waiting to hear from the numerous doctoral programs she has applied to in the U.S. and still meets with Wei to discuss all things accounting and seeks her continued counsel.
When she took her first accounting course, Ge was considering a career in public accounting. But a simple “get to know you” conversation with her professor was the beginning of a path she hadn’t considered.
“Now my foremost career objective is to become a professor at a teacher-research university like Creighton with adequate resources to conduct my desired research while allowing me to serve as a great teacher and mentor for my future students, just like Dr. Wei did for me,” says Ge. “I want to follow their steps and play the same influential role in the lives of my students as Dr. Wei and my other professors have played in mine.”
This story is part of our mentoring series in honor of National Mentoring Month. Read all the stories in the series: Kracher and Taylor: Breaking Through to the Real, Wei and Ge: Shared Experience Academic Focus, Menzel Baker and Wright: Meeting of the Minds, Olson and Idra: Mentoring a Mentor, McMahon and Fohr: From Mentorship to Friendship and Parrish and Grad: Paying it Forward