From Accounting to Academia—A Journey of Service

By Eric Hollenbeck

Pingping Tang

At the Carson College of Business, there’s an engaged community of doctoral students who pride themselves on serving others through their work. One of the program’s shining stars is Pingping Tang, a PhD student in operations management, whose professional accounting experience has led her to make a profound impact on her fellow international students and the wider community.

Tang’s academic journey began at Central Washington University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting. Her innate fascination with numbers and a desire to explore the intricacies of the business world led her to this field. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she pursued a master’s degree in accounting at WSU, driven by a clear goal: becoming a certified public accountant (CPA). The Carson College’s master of accounting program was instrumental in providing her with the necessary preparation for the CPA exam.

An unexpected return to WSU

Tang spent several years working as a CPA, immersed in the corporate world, gaining invaluable insights into the complexities of accounting and business management. After six years of working at an accounting firm in China, she felt a constant pull to return to academia.

She decided to return to WSU to pursue a PhD in operations management, aspiring to follow in the footsteps of those who had influenced her and contribute her expertise to the academic world.

The catalyst for this change, she explains, was the mentorship she received during her graduate studies at WSU. “I met Professor Chuck Munson when I was here for the first time in 2013. He provided me with guidance and mentorship, which I found invaluable. He’s the best professor I have encountered in my life,” she says.

Tang’s doctoral research focuses on e-commerce supply chain management, particularly examining the challenges and opportunities for third-party sellers on Amazon. Her work strives to help third-party sellers enhance their business strategies.

Serving others through WSU’s VITA program

Tang’s commitment to making a difference extends beyond her academic pursuits. She generously volunteers her time with the WSU Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, aiding individuals in the Inland Northwest with incomes of $57,000 or less in their federal tax preparation.

What sets Tang’s contribution apart is her unique ability to assist international students, post-docs, and visiting scholars, who often struggle with the complexities of the US tax system. As of 2023, Tang is the sole program volunteer who has passed the necessary exams to assist international students with tax preparation.

“If there is something I understand and it comes fairly easy to me, why shouldn’t I help others?” she says about her work with the WSU VITA program.

Tang has embraced this pivotal role because she understands the nuances of tax regulations and eligibility that international students may not be familiar with. Her motivation is crystal clear: she wants to ensure that her peers file their taxes accurately to avoid potential future complications, such as immigration issues or citizenship application problems.

Selfless attitude and community commitment stand out

In the eyes of Munson, Tang’s mentor and a member of her PhD committee, her dedication to service is highly commendable. He nominated her for the 2023 WSU Women of Distinction award, recognizing her commitment to the community and her outstanding contributions.

“I am awed by such a selfless act from a student currently going through a challenging PhD program and taking a higher-than-average workload of technical classes at the same time. Imagine how our society would look if all students had this attitude,” Munson wrote of Tang’s volunteer work in his nomination letter.

As she continues her journey, Tang’s goal is to complete her PhD and build her career as a faculty member at a research university. Her ambition is to share her knowledge and findings with students and the world, providing valuable insights that can drive the success of businesses in the e-commerce sector.

In a world that often emphasizes personal success, Tang’s story serves as a striking example of how one individual can use their skills and knowledge to benefit others and create a positive impact in the community. She embodies the spirit of WSU and the globally engaged community of the Carson College of Business, committed to making a difference through talent, insights, expertise, networks, and opportunities.