Beyond the Numbers: Teaching the Importance of Accounting in Business Decisions

At John Carroll University, Executive-in-Residence, Alissa Choi, MBA, CPA, leads the integration of current practice within undergraduate and graduate accounting courses. Choi provides students with experiential learning opportunities that enhance practical skills, and develop critical thinking and communication capabilities.

Case-Based Accounting

For accounting majors, the experiential work is incorporated throughout their courses, including in AC 303, Intermediate Accounting 1 through a project that introduces professional judgment concepts and a framework for decision-making. Students are assigned a case that requires them to determine an appropriate allowance for doubtful accounts at the end of a financial reporting period. Initially, students work with data in Excel on their own to prepare an initial analysis and estimate. Next, the the students split into groups where they discuss their individual analyses and work towards one estimate for the group.

“It is important for students to consider alternatives, practice professional judgment, and substantiate their conclusions,” says Choi.

Engagement with Experienced Practitioners

Next, each group is provided an opportunity to participate with an experienced practitioner. They explain the decisions they made and their rationale. The practitioners review the analysis, ask questions, make suggestions for consideration, and share experiences from their own practice

“I smiled when a student asked if their scenario was ever seen in the real world,” said Amanda Davis, Manager, Technical Accounting Consulting, RSM, “I responded with ‘every job I work on.’ I think the project did a great job of bringing together the classroom work and the application of skills in the workplace.”

“This [work] really starts the students down a path of critical thinking that appears to be at a minimum these days,” said Katy Allen, Controller, Ideastream Public Media. “It’s a shame because critical thinking is so crucial for success in the working world, whether it’s public accounting or industry.”

Time for Reflection

After the working session, students complete their final analysis, prepare an executive memo and engage in Ignatian reflection.

“I am much more confident in my ability to make accounting and financial decisions that require professional judgment,” said student Stephen Bannon. “I have a much better understanding of the process and how to better position myself to make the best decision for the company.”

“Presenting our conclusions to a practitioner helped immensely in improving our professional decision-making as well as giving us an idea of real-life situations,” said Logan Chiller.

A similar process continues through AC 305, Intermediate Accounting 3, with an increasing level of technical difficulty in the accounting issue.

“It’s invaluable to have this sort of preparation for the workplace,” says Choi. “It brings the material to life and helps the students become comfortable in presenting their work and answering questions. I can’t thank our practitioners enough. The students truly appreciate the experience and expertise that is shared with them.”

“Continue putting together these sorts of exercises,” said Lori Kalic, Partner and Senior Healthcare Industry Analyst, RSM. “It allows for independent, critical thinking and, while the students may not appreciate it now, they will!”

Your Future in Accounting

Develop valuable critical thinking skills and learn through experiential opportunities supported by practitioners in the field in John Carroll University’s Bachelor of Science in Accountancy program. Accountancy majors can take Choi’s courses such as Accounting Principles 1, Intermediate Accounting 1 and Intermediate Accounting 3, all of which teach applicable skillsets through thought-provoking, hands-on exercises.  

John Carroll is a private Jesuit university located in University Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.