Facing the Challenge Head-On

PROVO, Utah – May 17, 2021 – As Tim Seidel neared the end of his undergraduate journey at BYU, he did not expect to enter the field of accounting, let alone ultimately teach the subject at BYU Marriott School of Business. But when opportunities to change courses presented themselves, Seidel took them, trusting that he could face any challenge or obstacle head-on—and overcome them.

Seidel learned the value of challenges as an undergrad student. He graduated with a BS in business management with an emphasis in finance and planned to go into banking. However, the events of September 11, 2001, abruptly changed those plans. He was set to graduate in December 2001, shortly after the attacks, but big banks that usually came to give information sessions at BYU did not come that year because of travel restrictions. “I started scrambling, looking for whatever options were available to me at the time,” Seidel says.

Seidel’s roommate at the time was an accounting major and invited him to an information session where local accounting firms would be presenting. At the meeting, Seidel was introduced to Ernst and Young (EY), one of the Big Four accounting firms. From there he was accepted into a program run by EY that focused on hiring students who graduated in a major other than accounting. As part of the program, EY paid for Seidel to go to the University of Notre Dame to receive his master’s degree in accounting.

While studying at Notre Dame, Seidel grew to understand the importance and relevance of accounting. He recognized the value of understanding the rules behind the numbers in the financial statements used in so many different ways.

After graduating from Notre Dame in 2003, Seidel worked in public accounting. After his promotion to manager, he was selected as a trainer. This experience helped him develop his love for teaching and inspired his desire to be a professor. On one business trip, a colleague asked Seidel what his career goals were. Seidel responded that although he’d likely remain in public accounting his entire career, he would love to become a professor. “I enjoyed teaching and always had that desire. However, I didn’t think changing course was economically feasible given how far along I already was in my career and my growing family,” Seidel says.

The morning after this conversation with his colleague, EY announced that the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants had a new program that would fund approximately one hundred professionals to receive their PhD degrees in accounting. Seidel’s colleague turned to him and said, “It’s as if somebody was listening to you last night.” Seidel laughed and said, “Who knows? Maybe someone was.” Seidel applied and was accepted into the new program and eventually received his PhD from the University of Arkansas in 2014.

Now an associate professor and Glen D. Ardis Fellow, Seidel uses his experience in public accounting as a professor. “My professional experience gives me credibility in the classroom and insight into what is happening in the profession,” Seidel says. Though teaching and research are challenging at times, they are also very rewarding. Seidel has loved his time as a professor and finds great satisfaction in helping students and providing relevant insights to the profession.

One way Seidel keeps his class interesting is an ongoing push-up competition with his students. One year, while introducing himself to a class, he mentioned that he participated in a push-up challenge with a group of friends. A student then asked if they could challenge Seidel to a push-up contest, wagering if the students won, Seidel would have to provide an answer to a question for one of the class’s quizzes. Seidel won that year—and every year since—as the challenge has become a standing tradition.

To all current and future accounting students, Seidel says to be patient with yourself. “Understand that accounting involves a unique set of rules that take time to learn, but once you do, you’ll have a good foundation for understanding the language of business,” he says.

Accounting Professor Tim Seidel
Tim Seidel, associate professor of accounting and Glenn D. Ardis Fellow at BYU Marriott.
Professor Tim Seidel with his family at Arches National Park
Tim Seidel with his family in Arches National Park during the summer of 2020. (Photo courtesy of Tim Seidel)

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Veronica Maciel