Parnella Baul: from streets to success

Parnella Baul teaches Accounting Principles 1 at MCCC.

Though she has faced many hardships in her life, Parnella Baul has never lost hope.

“I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be as successful as I have become,” Baul said.

After being homeless at 13, she has found success in a career in accounting and teaching.

Baul, associate professor of accounting, has worked at MCCC since January of 2013. Baul teaches Accounting Principles 1 both online and on campus. She also supervises the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program on campus.

Baul had to leave school at the age of 13 because of family issues.

“My father and my mother were married, but my father went to Vietnam. My father was seventeen, my mother was fifteen when I was born. My father went to Vietnam because he could provide for us that way. Unfortunately, he came back, and he was addicted to heroin,” she said.

“So I kind of lost my father early in life. My mother, I didn’t know at the time, but unfortunately had mental health issues.”

Baul has had to deal with many situations, including homelessness and hunger.

“And so as a result, I ended up on my own, literally, at 13 years old. When I say I was on my own, I mean literally, I was out on the street on my own. I was exposed to too much. I experienced too much. I saw too much,” she said.

Fortunately, Baul was able to move in with her father at age 17. She was then able to get her GED.

“There was a program at that time, I believe it was the Cedar Program. Essentially what they did was if you don’t have a high school diploma and you’re willing to go back to school and get a GED, we will give you minimum wage and you register in the schools,” she said.

“That’s really what got me going in the right direction.”

However, Baul wants to emphasize the difference between a high school diploma and a GED.

“I don’t think people realize that a high school education and a GED are very different, even content-wise. But you don’t get the social skills. You don’t do the typical things you would do in school: proms and activities. Those things kind of mold you to kind of add to your experience and personality.”

Baul has spent most of her career in corporate. It was never her plan to teach, but she was given an opportunity while going to school.

“In 2001, I began teaching at Delaware State University, while I was working on my Masters Degree.”

However, she continued to teach at many universities and community colleges part-time, until she found her position at MCCC.

“Every day, I think, ‘what can I do to enhance my student’s learning experience?’ It’s not just about learning a discipline or topic, it’s about being successful,” she said.

“My goal is to make sure that they take away some core information that can help them, not just in their professional lives. But in their personal lives.”

Baul finds her joy in teaching through seeing students understand the material and have successes.

“I can see that lightbulb going on in their head; I can see it in their eyes. And I know, they’ve got it now.”

Baul is also quick to learn students’ names at the start of each semester, in the hopes that students will feel important and cared about by her.

Baul also has her own business, beyond being a professor.

“I provide accounting services for small-business owners,” Baul said.

Because of her past circumstances, Baul is dedicated to giving back and helping at-risk youth.

“You never know where someone comes from. I try to be helpful when I can. I try to be mindful of the fact that I don’t know everyone’s individual struggle, but we are all individuals, and everyone has some challenges in life. We should try to be kind and thoughtful and helpful if we can,” Baul said.

Baul recognizes that many people helped her, and she hopes to do the same for others.

“When I look back on my life, I can see that there were so many people that came into my life after that point that helped me to get to this place that I am now.”

Baul loves teaching her students and finds joy in their successes.

Baul has a very important message for young people:

“There is hope and you can be successful, no matter where you start.”

Baul is extremely active on campus. She is the chair of the curriculum committee. She also is a part of the Internship Task Force, working to get internships for students in many different disciplines.

Additionally, Baul works with Scott Wang to host an annual Accounting Competition where high school students can earn a voucher to cover tuition at MCCC by passing an exam. Baul also hosts the annual “Show Me the Money Event” and is a faculty partner with Cengage.

Baul is also very active in her free time.

“I’m an avid golfer,” she said. “In the winter, I am more of a bowler.”

She also loves to sing karaoke with Professor JoEllen Locher.

“She’s a much better singer than I am,” Baul jokes.

Baul’s goals for the future include going skydiving and publishing a book about her life.

Baul may not have had the opportunity to have children of her own, but she has found joy in mentoring her students.

“I do have some people that I mentor that are like children to me,” she said. “I have mentored some students that I’ve had from various schools.”

Baul has also faced racism in her career as an accountant and professor. She has always been one of the few African Americans in her professions.

“I’m accustomed to the kind of dismissive behavior, the kind of subtle racial comments, I’m aware of it. That’s why I say that, I think that people should really recognize that we’re all human beings and we all have the same basic needs. We have much, much more in common than they realize.”

Baul encourages the faculty to be open to new people.

“We are all here together for a single purpose and that is to educate our students. If we are open to one another, we can grow, we can learn from one another, and I think we can provide a more realistic experience for our students,” Baul said.

“We have to really exemplify that diversity can work and it is a positive thing.”