Faculty Profile – Professor of Accounting

Professor of Accounting Debbe Sanders recently won the WSU Foundation’s Faculty/Staff Outstanding Service Award for 2017. The award is granted to individuals serving as advocates for philanthropy who inspire the WSU community through their dedication and commitment to helping the university realize its full potential. Helping others realize their full potential has been a lifelong passion of Debbe’s.

Born with dyslexia, a learning disability specific to reading, Debbe often struggled as a student. “I always struggled with reading,” she said. “I was good at math, so as a child I didn’t know if I was stupid or smart because I was in advanced math but beginner’s reading.” This contrast forced Debbe to try twice as hard as her peers and ignited her desire to help others who may also be struggling.

Using her gift with numbers, Debbe began helping her fellow classmates with homework. She went on to excel in high school accounting courses, but when it came time for college, she pursued a bachelor’s in anthropology. It wasn’t until after graduation, when struggling to find employment in her chosen field that she considered accounting. “I went back to school and got my degree in accounting from Arizona State,” she said. “Then I went to Texas and worked in public accounting for a couple of years. It was there that I realized I like training more than actual accounting.” Recognizing her love of learning, she decided to pursue a Ph.D. 


Debbe now has more than 35 years of teaching experience. She taught for 23 years at WSU Pullman, spent a 10-week semester teaching in Switzerland through the study abroad program, and is going on her ninth year at WSU Vancouver. “I just want my students to be successful,” said Debbe. “They invest a lot in their education, and our job is to not only educate them, but to also make sure they’re successful.” 

Debbe’s ability to lead so many students to success draws on her own academic experience. “I think my experience with dyslexia makes me more sympathetic when people have learning disabilities, because I know what itis like,” she admitted. “As a teacher, you have to be more accommodating and see that everybody isn’t the same. I think it’s important to be supportive of people’s differences.”

That support is what drew Debbe to the Vancouver campus. She recognized the joint effort between departments working to improve the quality of education. “In the Carson College of Business, we get ideas from each other. What we’re doing in accounting maybe have already been tried in marketing, so they can give us help. There’s a lot of cross pollination.”

Debbe insists the Outstanding Service Award is a result of great minds working together. “It’s nice to be recognized for what you do, but I don’t really think it’s all me. It’s the CCB,” she said. “As a group we do a lot to set a good example.”


Fall 2018 will mark Debbe’s final semester as an educator. She will retire from her longstanding career doing what she loves best: inspiring students to love learning as much as she does. “To see a student you once saw struggle and then suddenly see that light come on and then they go off to be successful—you feel like you’ve done something.”

After more than 35 years inspiring the next generation, Debbe has done more than something. Through her love of learning, her understanding of students’ challenges and her desire to inspire, she gave students the keys to their own success. And she did it by helping them reach their full potential.

Originally published on Carson College of Business newsletter, Cougar Tracks