EPIC Spotlight: Claire Yan

As a child, Claire Yan watched closely how her mother, a literature teacher, interacted with students. That experience led to Yan standing out on her balcony, talking to plants and flowers that made up her pretend classroom.

Now she’s teaching in real students in a real classroom. Yan joined the Department of Accounting in August 2014 as a clinical assistant professor at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. She teaches undergraduate courses in accounting principles.

Yan grew up in Sichuan, China, and earned her bachelor’s degree in economics at the Beijing Institute of Technology, where she was ranked as the No. 1 student in her major for the four years she was there. The designation allowed her to enroll in graduate school at the institute without having to take an entrance exam, she says. After earning her master’s degree, she came to the United States, where she earned a Ph.D. in accounting at the University of Houston. She says she changed her major from economics to accounting because she found the concentration useful when applying accounting to the business world.

While in Houston, Yan taught introductory courses in both financial and managerial accounting. “Through the teaching, I found my passion,” she says.

She has brought that passion to the Walton College, which attracted her for its national rankings as well as the reputation of its accounting department. In return, her enthusiasm in the classroom has translated to good feedback from students. Yan was hooked. “I found my childhood hobby verified,” she says.

Yan keeps the motivation going with an office display of thank you cards from her students, including from one who says she hopes to someday be a professor much like Yan.

It isn’t always easy. Last semester, Yan taught 400 students in three classes – a challenge for any professor. Still, she works hard to remember as many of her students’ names and has, at times, had office hours lasting all day, sometimes to the point that she can’t leave for lunch, she says.

Many take her classes to see if accounting appeals to them, she says. Yan draws her students in by creating real-world scenarios they may find useful and presenting them in energetic fashions. “Most of the students are very self-motivated and very appreciative,” she says.

Then there’s research. One area she is examining is why some companies disclose more financial information than required, when they do it, under what circumstance and if people believe that information when they see it.

When she began her teaching duties, she was immediately struck by Walton’s family atmosphere, such as when accounting professor Charles Leflar assisted her when she needed to devote attention to her baby when he was sick. She says the faculty, staff and students all have a special synergy that functions under a strong leadership.

She also gets plenty of support from home. Her husband, Kangzhen Xie, is assistant professor in Walton College’s finance department. The two are the parents of an infant son.