Jennifer Tucker

Accounting for every surprise

Jenny Tucker and Angie Wang sit at a desk.

Tucker advises doctoral candidate Angie Wang.

Cook/Deloitte Professor Jennifer Wu Tucker didn’t anticipate becoming an academic in accounting. When she started her education in electronic engineering at the Beijing Institute of Technology, she didn’t have plans to go into accounting at all.

Switching from engineering to business was the first of many surprises along Tucker’s career path. Shortly before finishing her undergraduate degree, an opportunity opened for students with top marks to interview at a famous Chinese corporation. If the students were hired after passing a written test and an interview conducted in English, they would be supported to further their education in international business before beginning a position at the company.

Thinking she didn’t fit the hiring mold, Tucker was surprised to be accepted into the program. She completed her second bachelor’s degree in international business and worked with the company for five years, during which time her husband was dispatched to work in the United States. His relocation led to Tucker moving to the States as well, where she decided to go back to school.

A month before starting at Northern Illinois University, Tucker received a call from an accounting professor at the school, offering her a full-ride assistantship, tuition waver and stipend if she would switch to his program. Despite not having any prior education in accounting, Tucker took the professor up on his offer and began her career in accounting.

Between Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Tucker completed a master’s degree in accounting, passed the CPA exam and worked at a local CPA firm before entering UIUC’s doctoral program. She completed her doctorate at New York University after moving to the city with her family and, with four degrees in hand, prepared to move again to join the University of Florida Warrington College of Business.

“I was fortunate to receive a job offer from UF,” Tucker said. “Even though the number of research-active faculty at the Fisher School of Accounting was relatively low when I joined, I believed that the department would get its mojo back in due time because of UF’s national reputation and alumni support.”

A class crowds under sign for Gary R. Gerson Hall.

Tucker with her students.

Tucker joined the Fisher School of Accounting in 2004 as an assistant professor. Since then, she has been pouring her passion for learning, teaching and contributing to the literature of accounting into her work. Currently, as the Cook/Deloitte full professor, she teaches two accounting courses: Financial Accounting and Reporting II (ACG4111) and Accounting Theory (ACG6136).

“The financial accounting and reporting class is one of the most technical courses in any accounting curriculum,” Tucker described. “I want the students to understand why certain rules exist and the discretion that managers have in applying existing accounting rules. In this way, the course emphasizes the role of judgement in accounting.

“The use of judgement is a main reason why good accountants will never be replaced by machine.”

Merging technicalities with ethics and theory, Tucker enjoys challenging her students to develop not just their knowledge but also their character, helping them build the foundation they need to launch a career.

“In my accounting theory class, I expose students to the economic theories underlying accounting,” Tucker explained. “I challenge students to the level of analytical thinking that is achievable, but [is] initially uncomfortable. It is satisfying to see that students become familiar with the theories and accomplish the tasks that they might not initially think they could.

“The confidence that they have gained from this class can prepare them to learn anything that will come their way in the future.”

While she considers teaching one of the most fun aspects of her job, as a non-native English speaker it is also the most challenging. Tucker puts in a double effort to communicate well with her students and is always looking for new ways to engage with them in the classroom.

Three women in a conference hall.

At a conference in Romania, Tucker and leaders of the American Accounting Association represented the Accounting Horizons journal.

Even outside of the classroom, Tucker enjoys cultivating an environment that encourages growth. Since the pandemic, she’s been an avid gardener and plans to grow her vegetable garden now that her neighbors have helped her build a fence to keep the deer at bay.

With all the unexpected twists her career has taken, Tucker is open to what the future will bring. Trying new things requires no small amount of courage, but she is eager to take on her latest challenge: serving as the senior editor of Accounting Horizons, one of the most prestigious accounting journals. She will begin the position in June, and already has a vision of how she will lead the journal.

“I take opportunities that come my way and make the best of them,” Tucker said. “In fact, almost every career turn has come to me as a surprise and an opportunity, which I have taken. This has been my journey from an engineering major in China to an endowed full professor at the prestigious institution of UF.”