I got the nicest email a few days ago from the president of the American Accounting Association:    I am happy to give you some great news: you have been selected as the recipient of the 2013 Innovation in Accounting Education award for your blog, Joe Hoyle: Teaching -- Getting the Most From Your Students. The award was established to foster innovation and improvement in accounting education through ‘significant programmatic changes or a significant activity, concept, or set of educational materials.’”

I was really thrilled.
As a result, I will make a 90 minute presentation on August 7 at the AAA annual meeting in Anaheim.   If you are going to be at that conference, I hope you will stop by.   

And, I want to thank everyone who reads this blog for helping to spread the word.   We have now had 78,000 page views over the years and my guess is that most of those hits came from you guys telling other folks about the blog.   So I believe that the above award should be shared with you.   Thanks!!!

For two days last week, Dennis Beresford – the former chairman of the Financial Accounting Standards Board – was on our campus.   He gave talks and presentations to several hundred of our students as well as over 100 members of the local accounting community.   It was a wonderful couple of days here at the University of Richmond. 

At one presentation, a student in the audience asked “What piece of advice would you give to us as college students?”   That was a very legitimate question to ask a person who has been so very successful in the business world and as a college educator. 

I did not try to write down every word that Mr. Beresford said in response but I did love his answer and I want to paraphrase it here.   He paused for a moment and then talked about students often being too interested in focusing on getting 120 hours of nothing but accounting.   He spoke about the importance of gaining a broader education and coming to appreciate classes outside of accounting and business.  

I wish I could have written down every word because it was a great answer.   I could not have agreed more to what he said.   A college education should be about creating a foundation for a thoughtful life rather than a quest for a first job.   Understanding accounting is, of course, important but college needs to be about more than just making sure the debits equal the credits.   If that is all a person wants to learn, life is going to be very dull.

After Mr. Beresford’s talk, I started thinking about how to encourage my students to develop that kind of attitude.   I certainly want my students to learn lease accounting and pension accounting but I also want them to appreciate art, literature, and the like.   How do you push a student to go outside of his or her comfort zone?

Luckily, registration for the fall semester is coming up so the selection of courses is on everyone’s mind at the moment.   I quickly wrote a note to our seniors graduating in accounting and asked each of them to hit reply and tell me the name of the best course they had ever taken at the University of Richmond outside of the Robins Business School.   I explained what I wanted to do and asked them to identify that special, non-business course.

Almost immediately, a long list of courses started pouring into my email account.   Several students listed multiple courses they would recommend.   I had not asked for any type of explanation but many of the students wrote out glowing comments about a particular course and what they had learned.  

To me, the list was thoroughly fascinating including such courses as Hebrew Prophets, Justice in Civil Society, The Propaganda State, Minds and Machines, Leadership and Economic Policy, Thomas Jefferson and Revolutionary American, Introduction to Film Studies, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Lincoln, Saints and Sinners in Muslim Literature, Elementary Symbolic Logic, Introduction to Environmental Studies, and Global Women Writers.

The list was so interesting that I was ready to go back to college and take many of the courses myself.

Then, I sent an email to all junior accounting majors here at the University of Richmond.   I started by discussing what Mr. Beresford had said.   Then, I added the entire list of “best courses” and explained that some other student just like them had picked each of those courses as the very best (outside of the Business School) that they had taken in four years here.  I strongly encouraged them to look at those courses and consider whether one or more wasn’t worth taking in the coming fall semester.

Did I change any minds?   I certainly hope so.   Students often need a little encouragement to explore going outside of their comfort zone.   But, from my experience, most of them do not need very much encouragement -- a little goes a long way.   This whole experiment probably took no more than 45 minutes of my time.   But I might have gotten some of our Accounting students to broaden their education a bit.   And, that, I think, is a worthy goal.   Just like Dennis Beresford suggested.

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