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When she was announced as the 2022 Pittman Young Faculty of the Year recipient during Mississippi College’s Central Ceremony last May, Taylor Corso wasn’t in Swor Auditorium at Nelson Hall to receive the honor.

The assistant professor in the School of Business valued being considered for the prestigious award, established in 2004 by the late George Pittman ‘59, former longtime MC English Department chairman, and his wife, Alicia ‘60, to encourage young faculty at MC. The Clinton resident had a bigger priority that evening: her 1-year-old daughter, Sloane, was having a difficult time.

A few weeks before the ceremony, Taylor and her husband, Jon, learned their daughter had a rare brain malformation called Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum. The couple, along with Sloane’s doctors, decided to pursue genetic testing, believing an underlying genetic condition caused the ACC.

By late summer, Sloane had been diagnosed with Pitt Hopkins Syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental disorder caused by a mutation of the TCF4 gene on the 18th chromosome. The TCF4 gene plays an essential role in the development of the nervous system and the brain.

PTHS is characterized by developmental delays, low muscle tone, mild-to-severe intellectual disabilities and cognitive impairment, lack of speech, difficulty with mobility, gastrointestinal issues, and optical problems, among other potential challenges.

“When we got the diagnosis, we were told she might not walk or talk,” Corso said. “Just knowing her determination and resiliency, she’s going to progress. She goes to all of her physical therapy with a smile on her face and doesn’t complain. She’s got everyone in her corner rooting for her.

“We may move slowly, but we always move forward.”

Despite a diagnosis that would threaten to upend any family’s professional effectiveness, Corso has continued to serve as a role model for her students, according to Dr. Marcelo Eduardo, dean of the School of Business.

“In her short time at MC Business, Taylor Corso has already made her mark in the continuing tradition of beloved accounting instructors that balance high expectations of their students with the nurturing care and attention that brings the best out of these future accounting professionals,” Eduardo said. “As was the intent of the Pittman Young Faculty Award, in having someone that brings these attributes at such a young age, Taylor provides our accounting students with a role figure to which they relate and to whom they gravitate naturally, thus enhancing her effectiveness as a teacher.”

Part of being an effective instructor is living one’s values. Corso harbors no regrets about missing out on the award ceremony.

“I’m thankful I have Mississippi College in my life, and I am so grateful for the recognition,” she said. “I was shocked to hear I had received the award. I am so committed to my students, my dean, and my colleagues; it felt so lovely to be recognized. MC has brought great balance to my life. It’s meant more to me than I could put into words.

“But as important of a role as I have at MC, my most important role is being Sloane’s mother.”

That role has required Corso to spend a significant amount of time in doctors’ offices during some of the most challenging months of her life. Not only has she handled those personal trials, but she has also managed her professional responsibilities and thrived doing both.

When she first began pursuing a diagnosis for her daughter, Corso said it was important to keep the line of communication open with Eduardo. She said the support she and her colleagues receive from the dean is invaluable.

“I told him I wanted to keep my role here at MC,” she said. “That’s the best thing for my family. He said, ‘Great! I want to keep you here at MC forever.’

“I’ve got a wonderful administration, colleagues I have so much respect for, students I adore, and the opportunity to get to know them personally. That’s as good as it gets for an educator.”

A Certified Public Accountant and an expert in taxation and financial services, Corso teaches Intermediate Accounting, which covers theory and techniques in the preparation and interpretation of financial statements. When applied to her personal life, handling the emotional costs associated with meeting the needs of a child has yielded nothing but blessings.

“My whole life has been spent preparing me for this role,” she said. “Sloane and I are the best tag team. This is not what other people call ‘fate’ or ‘destiny.’ This is what God chooses for us, and it has been a wonderful learning experience.

“He knew what He was doing when He picked us for this journey. I had a career and an educational path that has allowed me to handle it as best as any new parent could.”

Corso, a native of New Orleans, spent her formative years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She obtained her bachelor’s in accounting and her master’s in taxation from the University of Mississippi and earned her Juris Doctor at the UM School of Law.

She interned at PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York and started her career there as an associate accountant. She later served as an associate at SwetlandCook in Oxford and at Carr, Riggs & Ingram in Ridgeland.

While visiting MC to recruit emerging graduates to her accounting firm in 2017, Corso slipped her resume into the MC Business office. She was soon hired to teach night courses in business law that fall. Then she was asked to continue teaching in the spring – the busiest season for accountants.

“I knew I wanted to be in education, and I felt it was a good opportunity, so I gave it a whirl,” Corso said. “I would finish up at the firm, drive to campus, teach in the classroom until 9:30, and be back in the office at 6:30 the next morning. It was exhausting, but it was absolutely worth it.”

During that semester, Eduardo recruited her to become a full-time member of the School of Business faculty. The advice he gave has remained with her ever since.

“He said the most important thing is to know your material,” Corso said. “Who cares what your teaching methods are if you don’t know the information you’re trying to convey? That’s what your students respect more than anything. Know your subject matter well, and the rest will come.”

She has demonstrated the truth in that approach while teaching a wide range of courses, including Business Law, Accounting, Cost Accounting, Principles of Accounting – “Basically, wherever Marcelo needs me,” she said. During every educational encounter, she keeps one thing in mind.

“I try to remember the mindset I had when I was a student,” she said. “A lot about the accounting path can be overwhelming. There can be information overload at times. I take time to tell them what they can expect in their careers. I go over some of the basics, give general career and resume-building advice, interview tips, and information about accounting firm culture – things I didn’t know and might have been hesitant to ask when I was their age.

“Students enjoy hearing about experiences in the corporate sector, and it helps them appear as well-rounded recruits to firms.”

Corso extends the same open communication policy to her students that she shares with the dean and her other MC Business colleagues.

“I focus on being extremely accessible. I like my students to know they can come to me for anything they need. They find a lot of comfort in that, and it’s one of the best parts of my job. My students know my office door is open to them, and I love that they feel welcome to come to see me.

“There aren’t enough words to describe my students – they are so dedicated to learning the subject material, and will stay after class sometimes when I get on a roll. As an educator, it is a blessing to have students who want to learn. Personal relationships set MC apart.”

Another asset that sets MC Business apart: the ability to discuss matters of faith in the classroom. From the start of her academic career, Corso has injected ethical questions into her lively discussions with students.

“Ethics and accounting – you can’t split those up,” she said. “Those two things are inherently connected. I always talk about how faith plays a part in our professional role as an accountant. It’s not just a professional code of conduct. Who you are as a person is so much more important than who you are as a professional, but you have an opportunity as a professional to exhibit who you are as a person.

“We have the opportunity at MC to explore how our ethics and morality are led by our faith and belief in the Bible. Being able to discuss those concepts in the classroom is such a privilege. It allows students to further develop in their own faith.”

Corso joins Dr. Sara B. Kimmel, associate professor and 2022 Distinguished Professor of the Year, as MC Business instructors to receive major faculty awards from the University this year. She is the second Pittman Young Faculty of the Year winner from MC Business in the last three years: her colleague, Dr. Brandon Bolen, assistant professor of economics, received the honor in 2020.

“We are simply blessed in the School of Business to have such outstanding faculty members educating our students,” Eduardo said. “Our commitment to academic excellence and the cause of Christ is being led by faculty that would be the envy of any other institution.

“That they are here at MC’s School of Business is a testament to the quality of our program and our environment.”

Selected by the MC Deans Council, the Pittman Young Faculty of the Year Award honors professors no older than 35 who demonstrate strong Christian values, possess a doctorate, and are recognized by their peers for their accomplishments and potential as a teacher. Nominees must have taught for at least two, but no more than five years at the Christian university.

The award is named as a tribute to the deep commitment the Pittmans had for the Baptist-affiliated university. The Pittmans served as founders of the annual Shakespeare Festival at MC, and the George and Alicia Pittman Conference Room in Jennings Hall is named in their honor.

An active member of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants and the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants, Corso has authored or co-authored four articles in refereed journals. She has also served as faculty sponsor of the Accounting Society. Yet she has many interests outside of the business world.

She serves on the City of Clinton’s Design Committee, helping to create an attractive, coordinated, and quality image of the downtown area. A certified scuba diver and an avid animal lover, her home includes two dogs and a family of peacocks/peafowl.

But Sloane gets most of the attention, and rightfully so. There are only 1,000 PTHS cases documented worldwide, but for those who know her, she is truly one in a million.

“We do not focus on what we can’t do,” Corso said. “Rather, we focus on the progress we’ve made and the joy that we have, our time together, our experiences, and our joy as a family.

“If you stare at the holes, you miss the cheese.”

Sloane’s diagnosis provides her mother with another arena of instruction.

“We feel blessed to have the opportunity to teach people about this rare disorder, and even more blessed that people want to learn about it,” Corso said. “Her story, our situation, is not about me, but God chose to make my life more meaningful. Having the opportunity to guide her, love her, and raise her is an honor.

“When I look back, I can see that God lined up everything so beautifully: he found my dream job that allows me flexibility, and my colleagues in the School of Business are rock stars. I cannot emphasize enough how special a place MC is. It’s a place that should be cherished. This is where we were meant to be, and I thank God we are here.”

For more information about Pitt Hopkins Syndrome, visit www.pitthopkins.org.

 

MageeNews.com is an online news source serving Simpson and surrounding counties as well as the State of Mississippi.

 

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