Karen Braun, CPA, CGMA, Ph.D.

Karen Braun
Karen Braun, CPA, CGMA, Ph.D., is a professor of accountancy at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and lead author of a college textbook, Managerial Accounting.

'I use a lot of visuals ...'

From public accounting to academia: I've always been a teacher at heart — I used to play teacher with my younger sibling. When I was in public accounting, I had several staff people under me who thought I was good at teaching. One of them had a father who was a professor. We had lunch, and he suggested I pursue a Ph.D., and I said, "Sign me up."

Authoring textbooks: Authoring a textbook is a lot of work, but it's rewarding. I want to make it as student-friendly as possible. I try to include things students can relate to, such as products they use every day and real-life examples from companies. I use a lot of visuals to break up the text. I don't want to see a black-and-white page, and my students don't, either. I use a lot of colors in the pages. For example, formulas are in blue, the demonstration of a formula is in green. These things stand out to students when they go back to review. I make sure there are motivators throughout the textbook as well, including a sidebar as to why the material is important from a business standpoint. I also created videos to go with the textbook, to reach students who learn better from watching than reading.

Keeping current with technology: It's extremely important for colleges to incorporate technology into their curriculum to prepare students for entering the workforce. We revamped our curriculum four years ago to include more technology. It's a massive challenge for colleges and universities since most accounting professors are not digital natives. We've addressed this by hiring experts from practice who have recent practical experience and can teach our students these skills — they're usually not tenure-track professors. Another option is to hire younger faculty who are more familiar with the technology that is currently being used in practice. Our advisory board serves a vital role in helping our program stay current with the trends, techniques, and technology being used in practice.

Teaching through business simulations: I've developed seven Excel-based mini business simulations, and I'd like to make more. These put the topic we're covering in class into a simulated environment, where I have a client who has a story and a business problem that needs to be solved. Students solve the business issue using management accounting techniques, and it's all done using Excel. It helps them learn about the topic in-depth and become more comfortable working in Excel. The result is that we don't have a huge separation between school and work. Students can see a business issue, identify the relevant accounting information, and then use technology to efficiently arrive at a potential solution, much like they will be doing in practice someday.

— As told to Lea Hart (lea.hart@gmail.com), a freelance writer in Durham, N.C.

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