Last fall, Dr. Tamra Davis Connor received the Illinois Business Education Association (IBEA) 2020 Writers’ Hall of Fame Award in recognition of the impact of her recent professional publications.

“Illinois has some of the finest business education professionals in the nation … a sincere congratulations is extended to Dr. Davis Connor for her work and contribution to business education and her students,” stated an IBEA press release announcing the award, which was presented during the organization’s 58th annual fall conference.

Connor serves as the associate dean for Accreditation and Operations in the Illinois State University College of Business (COB). Her duties include maintaining the college’s standing with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International, and she is currently working on the 2021 Continuous Review Report for accreditation.

“IBEA’s Writers’ Hall of Fame is an annual honor bestowed upon researchers who contribute to the literature of business and career tech education. I’m excited to have my work recognized by our association as valuable contributions to the enhancement of our field,” she said.

Connor joined IBEA upon moving to Illinois in 2011. In addition to her most recent honor, in past years she served on the organization’s board of directors and received its University Teacher of the Year Award.

She sees involvement in the organization as a valuable resource and described how it gave her opportunities to mentor ISU business education students, alumni and young teachers starting out in their careers. Membership in IBEA has also allowed her to nominate ISU business teacher education students for scholarships.

Two of the associate dean’s recent publications were considered for the IBEA award. The first research article was published by the National Business Education Association and dealt with the topics of economics and personal finance. Its goal was to provide research-based resources to help educators enrich curriculum. The second article, titled “Poverty Simulation Participation: Transforming Learning Outcomes among Family and Consumer Sciences Students,” appeared in the Journal of Research in Technical Careers. It was co-authored with Dr. Sally Arnett-Hartwick, a Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) teacher educator in the College of Applied Sciences and Technology at ISU. 

“The manuscript described how FSC students perceived an instructional activity related to poverty,” explained Connor. “This manuscript is related to my field of business education because it provides critical insight into how poverty impacts a person’s financial stability. The teacher education students who completed this lesson learned empathy about poverty and (garnered) valuable insight into how poverty can impact a student in their future classes. The article provides some insight into the importance of teaching financial literacy at a young age.”

Prior to teaching business education courses at ISU starting in 2011, Connor led business and computer classes at both the college and high school level. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a master’s in business education and a Ph.D. in education from Oklahoma State University.

As Connor explained, educating business teachers is one of the oldest programs at ISU. It began in 1922 under the name commercial education and was one of the original majors in COB alongside accounting and business administration. Graduates of the program typically go on to teach in K-12 classrooms. Lesson topics include “financial literacy, computer literacy, accounting/bookkeeping, marketing, management, business law, technology skills, creative arts using technology, digital literacy, and many other subject areas,” according to Connor.

“The program at ISU is the last dedicated business teacher education program in Illinois that is located in a public institution. There are a few programs in private institutions; however, all public institution programs have either been absorbed into a career and technical education degree or canceled. The new master of science in business education is one of the few programs at the graduate level in the United States,” the educator said.

She also noted that business educators play an important role in encouraging young people to consider a career in business.

“Our alumni are the best advertising for COB majors by encouraging students to learn business fields. Many COB students come to the college because a high school teacher encouraged them to study business,” she said.