Growing up in Arkansas, Dr. Gary Peters loved the outdoors. Fishing. Hunting. It was all good. As an undergraduate enrolled at a community college, he thought he could channel his passion by majoring in biology with the idea of someday working in wildlife management. When he took a job at a local sporting goods store, however, that all changed. “I really got more interested in running a business instead of just working at one,” he says.
He switched his degree to business, although he did not see himself becoming an accounting major.
“I was good at it but … let’s just say I didn’t have a good idea of what accountants really do,” he says. In fact at one point he thought, “I’ll never be an accounting major.”
Never say never.
He took his business interests to Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. It was there his professors showed him the beauty of accounting: it had more to do with decision-making. “They taught me accounting information is the common denominator in every business. Everyone needs it to make good business decisions. It applies to every part of a business.”
“Well now I can use these skills to make a difference inside the company,” he told himself then.
He graduated, became a certified public accountant and went to work in Little Rock. All the while, he had a desire to learn more about the profession. He left his home state and pursued a master’s degree at the University of Missouri followed by a doctorate at the University of Oregon. He began teaching at the University of Georgia. In 2003 the University of Arkansas called.
As an associate professor in accounting at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, he serves as director for the Master of Accounting (MAcc) and the new Integrated Masters of Accountancy (IMAcc) programs. The IMAcc was launched to allow students to begin the program their senior year and complete it by the end of their fifth. Peters says his goals for these programs is more than making students ready for their first job, but also for future promotions when students are competing with co-workers who very likely have graduate degrees from other universities. “In accounting, the master’s degree is important when starting a career, but it is even more important when advancing in your career.” As Peters sends his students on their way, he also offers this advice: “Always be looking for opportunities at work, that’s when you make a difference, that’s when you will go great places that you would not have predicted.”
Peters’ work opportunities are his research, which focuses on audit committees and internal auditors and how they can add value to companies. He says their knowledge can aid companies and their shareholders in making sound decisions. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Contemporary Accounting Research, MIS Quarterly and The Accounting Review. In 2009, Peters was named to the Doris M. Cook Chair of Accounting.
As for the outdoors, Peters says he still has a passion for hunting and fishing. This time with the addition of his wife, Shannon, and their four children. “We love the Ozarks,” he says. “We’ve lived in some great places, but there is something special about Fayetteville.”