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Lauren Cunningham: Accounting Expert, Ireland Lover, Curler, Mom-To-Be

Cunningham with a lamb in Ireland.

Cunningham with a lamb in Ireland.

At UT: Lauren Cunningham came to UT in 2014. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Accounting and Information Management and the director of research of the C. Warren Neel Corporate Governance Center. Cunningham teaches auditing to both undergraduates and graduate students and serves as a research advisor to doctoral students working on their summer papers or dissertations. She is also the audit curriculum coordinator, which involves aligning the curriculum among undergraduate and graduate programs and gathering feedback from various perspectives.

Why she chose this field: “I actually started out as an architecture major,” she said. “I did well in classes but I didn’t love it, so I took a career aptitude test and scored 98 percent in accounting.” This prompted her to take an introductory accounting course with Penny Clayton, from whom she learned to love accounting.

“Accounting is like a foreign language—it’s a way to communicate what you’ve done in your economic transactions,” she said. “You really take on a passion for understanding the gray areas.”

After graduating from Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, Cunningham earned her CPA and began practicing accounting in Texas but soon realized that teaching was her true calling. “The part of my day that I loved most in public accounting was sitting down with the staff, teaching them how to do their job and seeing the light bulb go off for them,” she said.

Cunningham in Ireland.

Cunningham in Ireland.

Favorite UT moment: “My first master’s of accounting graduation ceremony. I teach in the program and when I sat through the graduation ceremony and saw how happy the students were during the ceremony and afterward with their families, it was very grounding. It’s a good reminder of the whole purpose of why we’re all here.”

Big news: Cunningham and her husband, Will, are expecting a baby girl in April.

Outside interests: Cunningham and her husband try to go on walks every night in their West Knoxville neighborhood. They also enjoy hiking and board games. “We’re avid travelers,” she said. “We’re not afraid to get in the car at 3 a.m. for a day trip and then come home late that night.”

The couple also enjoys traveling abroad. Cunningham’s favorite trips have been to Ireland (“beautiful and relaxing”) and Australia.

Something people don’t know about me: “My husband and I are members of the Great Smoky Mountains Curling Club in Knoxville.” Curling is a sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice toward a target area.

If I didn’t do this, I’d: “Move to Ireland with my husband and run a sheep farm. I could teach, too—I’ll always teach some.”

One more thing: Cunningham’s office is filled with old calculators and check writers. “My mom is an art teacher and loves to antique, so anything she sees with numbers she buys and gives to me. Even though she has no idea what I do, she’s my biggest supporter.”

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