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IMA Life: 25 Years and Counting

By Debra A. Petrizzo, DBA
September 1, 2018

I joined IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) as an undergraduate student in 1993 and have been an active member for 25 years. I cooperated a ranch in South Dakota and needed to gain accounting knowledge, so I began attending and majoring in accounting and management at Chadron State College (CSC), a small liberal arts college in Nebraska. Accounting professors talked to students in depth about the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam and public accounting, but other professional certifications and areas of accounting were barely mentioned.


Knowing that management accounting was my passion and that I wasn’t going into public accounting, I researched IMA and knew instantly that IMA membership fit my career path the best. So I joined, and since then I’ve made it my mission to educate others about IMA and the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification.


After graduating with my MBA, I started my career in the rail industry working for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway as a conductor. I took the opportunity to learn everything I could about the operations and logistics of the organization before relocating to the corporate headquarters as an internal auditor.


While at BNSF, I used my professional development money to attend the IMA Annual Conferences, which offered presentations on a wide variety of topics delivered by individuals with diverse backgrounds. The networking also was invaluable. But more than knowledge and contacts, I left every Conference with a renewed appreciation for management accounting and our role in the accounting profession.


When I left BNSF and went to work in the Department of Accounting and Economics as an accounting instructor at my alma mater while pursuing my doctorate of business management (DBA), I made it a point to educate students about the CMA as vigorously as I did other certifications. Serving as the faculty advocate for CSC’s IMA Student Chapter, I felt it was important for students to understand how IMA membership and CMA certification could advance their careers.


After attaining all but dissertation (ABD) status, I went back to the rail industry, first with Alstom Train Life Services as a project controller and finally as the international controller with Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc. (EMD). Within each organization, I used the skills I gained from my years as an IMA member to improve systems, create first-time processes, enhance cost controls, and recognize opportunities to optimize performance.


In 2009, I returned to education. While employed by Franklin University, I served as the director of student relations for IMA’s Columbus Chapter and then resigned from the University and Chapter in 2017. Currently, I’m a professor at Curry College in Milton, Mass., where I teach accounting and operations management and can be heard stressing the benefits of IMA membership, CMA certification, and Student Leadership Conference attendance.


I attended the Student Leadership Conference in St. Louis, Mo., in 2009 and look forward to returning this year with a new group of IMA student members to foster into the IMA family. It has been an amazing 25 years as an IMA member, and I look forward to the next 25.


Debra A. Petrizzo, DBA, is a professor at Curry College in Milton, Mass., and a member of IMA. She can be reached at debra.petrizzo@curry.edu.
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