Colorado State Professor Honored with National Awards for Commitment to Education and Diversity

Ask Margarita Lenk to talk about herself, and she’ll tell you what’s happening with her students – like Victor Amaya.

"Margarita always has time for her students," said Amaya, president-elect of Colorado State University’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, a national scholastic and professional accounting fraternity. "She will put aside anything she is doing to help you out, whether it is school-related or life-related."

For nearly a quarter of a century, Lenk has been devoted to teaching students and serving her profession, particularly the minority community. In recognition of that devotion, she has received three major awards this year alone:

– Outstanding Educator from the American Accounting Association, Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies Section.

– Service Award for Enhancing Minorities in the Accounting Profession from the American Accounting Association, Diversity Section.

– Jack Stewart Student Project Award from the Accounting Information Systems Educators Association (along with two accounting students, Erin Smrdu and Tara Nelson).

Even with these numerous awards, Lenk still focuses on her students.

"While I have been honored with many teaching awards, my best teaching award is the news that my students have made sound choices in their lives and are improving their organizations, communities and professions with great passion and vision," she said. "I view teaching not as a semester-long grading exercise, but as a lifelong commitment to mentoring."

The College of Business at Colorado State also has taken notice of Lenk’s commitment to her students.

"It would be difficult to find another faculty member who cares more about her students than does Dr. Lenk," said John Olienyk, senior associate dean of the college. "She is an important part of who we are as a faculty."

Twenty-four years ago, Lenk started her career teaching higher education. Lenk, who is originally from Argentina, said that her heritage has shaped her as a person and a teacher.

"I believe that the Argentine culture has given me a deep, sustainable hope in my creativity, my integrity and my ability to create the ‘American Dream’ for my family, my students and for others in my community," she said.

Lenk obtained a doctorate in Accounting and Management Information Systems from the University of South Carolina. She joined Colorado State’s faculty in 1991 and is an associate professor in the departments of accounting and computer information systems in the College of Business. She teaches upper-division accounting courses and has an interest in the use of technology in organizations.

Students say she loves to brag about her students’ achievements.

Last year, a team of students from Colorado State went to the KPMG and ALPFA National Case Study Competition for accounting in Fort Worth, Texas. On the flight back from Texas, Lenk had the flight attendant announce on the plane that the students had placed second at the competition.

Leanne Eberle, who attended the competition and was on the plane, was a student in Lenk’s Accounting Information Systems class.

"Our class was at 8 a.m., but every day, she came in with more energy than the entire class combined," Eberle said.

Lenk extends that energy to the minority community. She is dedicated to supporting faculty and students in any way she can, including mentoring minority faculty and students.

Lenk recently completed research into partnerships between Hispanic-serving institutions and their communities.

Involvement in the community is an important issue to Lenk, and she strives to extend that ideal to her students.

"I believe that students need to learn more than the academic discipline-specific skills; they need to develop as whole persons in ‘larger-than-themselves’ community contexts," she said.

She also extends her expertise beyond the classroom by remaining active in national committees and university-level committees.

Still, she wants to be available for students no matter what.

"Margarita is a person I seek when I need a shot of confidence," Amaya said.  "She is a tremendous cheerleader and wants to see her students succeed."