Mona Nelson '75

Professor of accounting and management

First year teaching at Luther: 1990

In the stands: Owns something Luther blue for nearly every body part, including a blue sequined cap, as one of many proud parents of Luther swimmers and divers (her youngest son, Taylor, is a freestyle specialist and 2008 national meet qualifier).

Off-campus commitment: Has served the Decorah school board for 12 years, weathering such intense debates as the fate of the historic East Side School.

Don't be deceived by her title--Mona is as quick with words as with numbers. Notorious for her open-door policy, she often spends hours with students talking about accounting careers, well beyond their first Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam.

"When I was a kid and discovering I liked math, I had a babysitter who went on to become the first female CPA in Iowa," she explains. "She helped me look at accounting as a legitimate criterion for choosing a college, and when I got my Iowa CPA license, her signature--as chair of the state board of accounting--was on my certificate. That connection made a real impact on my life."

Having worked in private business in both Minnesota and Iowa before joining the Luther faculty, Mona appreciates the flexibility of Luther's accounting program. "We don't regiment a track that everyone has to take," she says. "Students get the full liberal arts experience and then go lots of different directions. Some go to big accounting firms, some to law school, some to higher ed, some to corporate accounting."

Across the board, something must be working, she adds, because a high percentage of graduates pass the CPA exam right out of school, find fulfilling jobs, and earn advanced degrees.

"Accounting majors have a minimum of three classes with me," she explains. "By the time they graduate, I have a pretty good idea of what they'd like to pursue, and I can point them toward a mentor in our growing network of alumni and say, 'Talk to this person and tell him/her Mona sent you.'"