Assistant Professor of Accounting and Instructional Coordinator Ranae Ziwiski may teach accounting, but a big part of her job is supporting Elgin Community College students as they create their life stories.
Of course, it's more than debits and credits. "Accounting is not just about math; teaching is not just about sharing content. In order to be successful, both require the ability to see the connections and the big picture," said Ziwiski. "I have always loved to read books and explore the worlds authors create within the story. In my classroom, I help students explore their own worlds and write their own narratives."
In reading, education and in life, there's power in knowledge. "I really do believe there is power in knowledge and information. I don't desire to be an expert at everything, but would like to know a little about everything. You never know what tidbit of knowledge could change someone's life, including yours. I try to pass this wisdom on to my students and hope to inspire them to be lifelong learners."
We caught up with Ziwiski to learn more about her life and her work at ECC. Here is what she had to say.
In your words, what do you do at ECC?
I have several roles at ECC that combine into a productive, challenging, inspiring job. My primary assignment is being a professor of accounting. I teach students the basics of accounting which is likely their first exposure to the discipline. While doing that, I get to expand their knowledge of business and challenge them to continue their educational journey. As an instructional coordinator, I update and design curriculum, answer questions about the program, work with dual credit and transfer opportunities, and manage departmental requirements.
What is your greatest accomplishment since you've been here?
I believe in focusing on daily accomplishments and believe my greatest one is yet to come. I am always interested in expanding my knowledge and continue to ask "why?", questioning if there is a better way. If I can pass that thirst for knowledge and exploration on to my students, then I feel successful. I am proud of each student that succeeds in my class and continues on to the next class. I am proud of all the changes we have made to the accounting program to continue the success of our students. I am proud of the hard work that was done to launch the new supply chain management program at the college.
What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?
If I were president of ECC for a day, I would want a three-month learning window before that day to learn as much as I could about every department across the college. There are so many wonderful projects happening and on my one day, I would make more connections across the college. I would bring projects together that share common goals in order to build momentum and synergy. When you see that someone else wants the same goal, it can be powerfully motivating.
If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
There is absolutely no resemblance, but I would be honored to have Jennifer Garner in my life story. She brings grace and dignity to her work as well as her personal life. She places value both on family and her work. As much as you can "know" a celebrity, she seems to be down-to-earth and hardworking, doing what needs to be done.
What's on your "bucket list?"
I would like to travel more now that my children are heading out on their own. I am interested in a trip to Alaska to see the beauty of that area or to Hawaii to see the volcanic activity. I would like to learn the art of making stained glass windows because the entire process fascinates me. I am interested in genealogy and would like to travel to Germany to explore the details of my heritage and follow the roots of my family.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I enjoy working in my garden, but I'd say I'm more of a hobby gardener than a serious one. I enjoy spending time outdoors, sitting on the deck, appreciating the quiet. I enjoy lunches out with friends and catching up. I enjoy visiting museums and attending theatrical or musical productions.
Where was the best place you've traveled to?
I have enjoyed every place I've traveled to, but I was in awe of nature on my visit to Yellowstone National Park. The Grand Canyon is also beautiful, but there is something about the colors in the earth at Yellowstone that places it top of the list.
What would be your "theme song?"
I would say my theme song changes daily because it depends on the music I hear on the way to work. The right song can set the tone for that day. But one song holds special meaning to me and that is "Our House" by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
What was your favorite class in school?
My senior year of high school, I took a bookkeeping class. At that time, I knew that accounting was something I could do for a living.
What was your first job out of school?
Out of college, during a time of recession, many students took any job they could find remotely related to their profession, and that was my situation. I spent six months working in an office managing the paperwork, then 5 months working for a CPA firm during tax season. Both were excellent learning experiences. After that, I was able to find that first dream job.
What quote best describes your philosophy?
I have three that are currently sticking with me. (1) "We can't take any credit for our talents. It's how we use them that counts." –Madeline L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time; (2) ASK: Always Seek Knowledge –unknown; (3) "People who don't take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year." –Peter Drucker
I don't know if the number is correct in his quote, but the idea seems to be that some level of risk is worth taking.
Complete this sentence: "I enjoy working at ECC because…"
I am challenged and inspired daily.