What one CPA calls ‘the best job in the world’

Hosted by Neil Amato

  Nancy Bagranoff, CPA, DBA, is a professor of accounting at the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business.

Nancy Bagranoff, CPA, DBA, didn't think she was going to become an accountant. But a General Electric training program opened doors for her, and she learned that she was well suited to the CPA profession. These days, Bagranoff passes on accounting lessons as a university professor.

Plus, learn some of the highlights of the January issue of the JofA: an overview of the annual tax filing season quick guide, knowing when and how to raise fees at your firm, and tech-based tips to improve expense reporting.

What you'll learn from this episode:

  • Two of Nancy Bagranoff's memorable hiking stories.
  • The ways that she connects with students at the University of Richmond.
  • The value of bringing practitioners into the classroom.
  • Why Bagranoff thinks her students learn so much in an introductory accounting class.
  • An overview of the annual tax filing season quick guide.
  • CPA tips on when and how to raise fees at your firm, and advice for automating expense reporting.

Play the episode below or read the edited transcript:

To comment on this episode or to suggest an idea for another episode, contact Neil Amato at Neil.Amato@aicpa-cima.com.


Neil Amato: Welcome back, listeners. This is Neil Amato with the Journal of Accountancy. Coming up on this episode of the podcast, we feature a university professor who is the subject of The Last Word feature in the January issue of the JofA. Plus we'll share more on the insight you'll find in the current issue, from the annual tax filing season quick guide to practice management advice to tips for streamlining expense reporting. First, here's my conversation with Nancy Bagranoff on how she got interested in accounting, how she connects with her students, and that time she took her grandkids hiking in the mountains.

Joining me for this episode is Nancy Bagranoff. Nancy is a CPA and professor at the University of Richmond. Nancy, thank you for being on the podcast. Tell me first, how did you get interested in accounting?

Nancy Bagranoff: It's interesting. My undergraduate major was marketing, and I majored in marketing, thought I might work in retail, graduated, decided, well, maybe I don't want a retail career.

As it happened, General Electric was hiring into their executive management program, and I got hired into that. It was a financial accounting type of program, and so I started working in accounting, and I found out that I was well suited to it.

Amato: You are The Last Word feature in the Journal of Accountancy. In that feature, you're asked to name a favorite book. Now, you said you read quite often, two books a week. That's pretty hard to probably name a favorite because you have such a large list. But on the question of favorite app, you mentioned AllTrails. Now I'm guessing you don't get to two new trails per week, so I'll ask, do you have a favorite, one or two memorable hiking trails or experiences?

Bagranoff: I'll give you two, Neil, that are favorites for different reasons or favorite memories. One is last summer I had the great good fortune to go with my family to Wyoming, in Jackson Hole.

We did a wonderful, wonderful tour of Jenny Lake in the Tetons, and it was just fabulous. Got to walk around there, had a wonderful time. I will tell you one little anecdote there. The person in front of me accidentally dropped their bear spray, and I walked into it and … I couldn't breathe. It's memorable for that reason, but it's mostly memorable for the beauty of the surroundings.

The other experience is memorable in a funny way. I went to visit my daughter in North Carolina, and I was tired after a long drive. I suggested to my grandchildren that they go on a walk with me. These were four grandchildren all aged about 8–14. I found a site on AllTrails and took them over, and we started hiking. I realized I didn't bring any bear spray, I didn't bring any water. I hadn't paid attention to the map.

I took the poor four children up the side of the mountain, couldn't figure out how to get down. We finally got down and found ourselves five miles from the parked car. It was very memorable, but not the best hiking experience. Fun for me, and a couple of them actually enjoyed it, but a few of them will never go hiking with me again.

Amato: I can understand that. One question, because I live in North Carolina. Where in North Carolina was this memorable hike?

Bagranoff: It was right outside Asheville, in Cullowhee, if you know where that is.

Amato: Yep, Western Carolina University.

Bagranoff: It's three miles from there.

Amato: What to you are the keys to connecting with your students?

Bagranoff: I love to talk to students. I really do, and I find that you can connect with them. You can always find someplace to connect. You just mentioned to me that you live in North Carolina and so you're interested in where the hiking trail was.

Geographically, I can connect. I can connect from sports, although I'm not as great at that as many people are. You can connect by talking about their pets. You can connect talking about their families. You can connect about summer work that they've had.

I try to find something that we have in common. It might even be a favorite movie or a recent movie that we've watched. It's nice to find something where they connect with you personally, and then you can use that as a bridge to work with them on what matters, which of course is learning accounting.

Amato: You said that one way you make accounting classes relevant is to bring in practitioners. What are the benefits of the words of those practitioners?

Bagranoff: I think that students do think sometimes that their teachers live in ivory towers and may not have enough relevant experience. I do try to stay very connected, so I think I'm up on what's going on, but I get a little bit more credibility if that's echoed by a practitioner, or the practitioner will bring something in that I learn along with the students.

One of the courses I teach is in cybersecurity. Now, no one these days can know everything about cybersecurity. Having a speaker come in and talk about their own organization's experience or the consulting work they do in cybersecurity enlightens all of us. That's just a great opportunity for the students. I also find that many times the students will listen to a practitioner, and they might want to connect with them outside of the class and talk to them about their jobs and their careers.

Amato: That's interesting that you said that you can learn as well. Are the professionals from public accounting mainly, or where are you drawing them from?

Bagranoff: I draw them from all over. I do have public accountants many times, but I will also go to the corporate world, especially with respect to cybersecurity or consulting firms.

Amato: It's been good to get to know you a little bit better today, Nancy. People can find out more about you in The Last Word, as I mentioned that article, but is there anything you'd like to add in closing?

Bagranoff: I would just add that I feel that getting to teach students is the best job in the world. I particularly like getting to teach them accounting. I often teach the first accounting course. I had a few students this semester tell me at the end that they felt they'd learned more in the course than in any course that they took. That isn't a function of me as a teacher. That's a function of the body of knowledge that we have and the practicality of it. So, it's a joy to be able to do that work.

Amato: Thanks again to Nancy Bagranoff. You can read the mentioned article in the January issue of the JofA, which we will link to in the show notes for this episode. I'll also highlight three other articles from that issue. First is the filing season quick guide for tax year 2021. There is all kinds of info from dollar thresholds, tax tables, standard amounts, credits, and deductions. You can download and print that guide.

The second article of note is on what is sure to be a popular practice management topic: when and how to raise fees at your firm. There are multiple factors that can figure into this decision, and those increases are often necessary to run a profitable, healthy business. Freelance writer Anita Dennis shares tips from several CPAs on this topic.

Finally, read CPA Byron Patrick's ideas for more expense reporting ease. There are options — from corporate credit cards to software — to make the expense report process go more smoothly. That's all for this episode. Thank you for listening to the Journal of Accountancy podcast.