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May 27, 2020

Martinez-Pfiffner Braves New Frontiers in Litigation

Professor Encourages Alum to Face New Challenges
Martinez-Pfiffner Braves New Frontiers in Litigation
Christine Martinez-Pfiffner, ’87 and ’90, continues to step out of her comfort zone after a professor guided her through a difficult course in college. She now serves as a litigation specialist for the IRS.

As thousands of people adjust to working from home due to COVID-19, many find themselves outside of their comfort zone. The feeling is all too familiar to Christine Martinez-Pfiffner, ’87 and’90, who found taking on a new role in litigation daunting.

As a lead attorney and litigation specialist for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Dallas, Martinez-Pfiffner never envisioned her career would lead to her as a litigator. However, after finding success, she was given the opportunity to take on more litigation this year than in her previous roles since joining the IRS in 1991. She shared how this feeling of discomfort occurred in college when she took Security Analysis (FINA 463) at the College of Business.

“That finance class opened a whole new world to me as a business administration major. It was challenging because I didn't have all the prerequisites to be in the class. I asked the dean to sign a waiver to get me in because I was interested in the class and it was something I wanted to try,” she explained.

The course proved difficult for Martinez-Pfiffner, who wanted to drop it. However, she decided to first consult with Dr. Richard DeFusco, who taught the course.

Martinez-Pfiffner returned to the university last fall to participate in the Multicultural Homecoming initiative organized by the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of People of Color. During her visit, she spoke to classes about her experience.
Martinez-Pfiffner returned to the university last fall to participate in the Multicultural Homecoming initiative organized by the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of People of Color. During her visit, she spoke to classes about her experience.

“Christine was struggling, so I looked closely at her exams. I could tell she was grasping about two-thirds of the material. I thought that was a lot to build on and encouraged her to stick it out with my help,” explained DeFusco, department chair and professor of finance.

DeFusco’s support kept Martinez-Pfiffner in the course and showed her she could be successful even when working in areas outside of her expertise. The experience helped lead to her role in litigation for the Chief Counsel's Office at the IRS.

“That class taught me not to settle and showed me if I put myself out there, try a little harder and get out of my comfort zone, I could succeed. Professor DeFusco provided encouragement when tackling many things I didn’t think I could do and I became interested in the field of finance,” she said.

DeFusco knew the complexity of the course would be difficult for a non-finance major like Martinez-Pfiffner, but he also believed, she could succeed. After she passed the course, she graduated and later earned her juris doctorate from Nebraska Law.

Years later when Martinez-Pfiffner returned to campus for the Multicultural Homecoming organized by the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of People of Color, she reached out to DeFusco to thank him for his support. DeFusco was surprised she remembered a class taken more than 30 years ago.

“As faculty, we don’t always realize the lasting impact we have on students,” he said.

Now at another time when many people feel outside of their comfort zone during COVID-19, Martinez-Pfiffner assures people the IRS is here to help. With an extended tax deadline of July 15, she encourages those with tax questions to look to the IRS website for up-to-date information at: https://www.irs.gov/.

“The IRS isn’t going to do anything to add to the stress people may have right now. We’re letting everyone adjust to what they are going through and are trying to figure this out just like everyone else,” she said.

To learn more about the Department of Finance, visit: https://business.unl.edu/finance.