‘It’s really about listening to them …’
The opportunity to teach came calling: I was a marketing major and thought I wanted to work in retail. I was offered a role in GE's Financial Management Training Program and found I really liked the finance and accounting. I took a leave to get a master's in accounting at Syracuse University. They asked me to teach a course after I finished my degree, and I just felt that I found my calling. I really liked connecting with students, explaining the material, and seeing them get it. I loved that it fed my intellectual curiosity as well. I love learning, and learning alongside the students while facilitating their own learning is a wonderful experience.
Connecting with the younger generation: For CPAs who are trying to teach or mentor young people, it's really about listening to them. Teaching is not a one-way activity. You learn from students in different ways than they learn from you. I listen to my students, and I'm always able to find a connection. I can make connections talking about restaurants, food, shopping, and travel. Others might do it with sports. It helps to have these connections and a relationship in place as you move from there into teaching and mentoring them.
Keeping abreast of technology: As the business world becomes increasingly tech-focused and complex, faculty must be able to access those skills themselves so they can prepare students. Many firms offer training to academics, or cases, tools, and software, so academics can acquire skills and pass them on to their students. At the same time, we really have to teach our students to develop their intellectual curiosity and the ability to continue to learn. They will need to acquire skills throughout their lives and must know how to do that. Sometimes intellectual curiosity is easily quenched. I'll ask a question in class, and students will look at me like they don't know the answer. I point out that they have their phone and they can look up the answer.
CPAs can help cultivate today's students: One thing I love about being in an accounting department is that I think we have a closer relationship with practice than any other discipline. Students need to understand all the professional opportunities available to them. We bring practitioners into the classroom, they sit on advisory councils, and we invite them to work with our career center. CPAs who have an interest in getting to know today's students should contact the schools around them, including the accounting departments and staff in career services. There are many ways for professionals to get in front of our students. Faculty, especially new or younger faculty, may not have the connections to get practitioners into the classroom, yet both sides want to connect.
- Favorite book: I read about two books a week, so choosing a favorite is really difficult, but let's go with Presidential Courage by Michael Beschloss. I love this book because it's about leaders who made bold decisions that changed history.
- Favorite app: AllTrails. I enjoy hiking, and this app shows you details about nearby trails, wherever you happen to be.
- Favorite item to travel with: My smartphone. How did we ever live without one?
— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in Virginia. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, the JofA's editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.