Answering the Big Questions in Accounting Education
2021-2022 Department of Accountancy ANNUAL REPORT
ASKING KEY QUESTIONS The accounting classroom is a place filled with questions, many of which have concrete answers. But leading in accounting education means considering questions where the answers are not clear-cut—and contemplating answers to questions that haven’t even been asked yet. That’s what we do in the Department of Accountancy at Gies. We lead by having our finger on the pulse of the profession and evolving as it evolves. We intentionally pursue innovative curricular initiatives—like our new ACCY + Data Science degree, CPA Pathways Certificate, and a new course on blockchain—while continuing to build on our proud tradition of excellence in PhD education and cutting-edge research. How do we keep ahead of what’s next? As an innovator in accounting education, we consider the questions that are key to leading in these changing times, and we don’t do it in isolation. At Gies, we collaborate with all stakeholders, soliciting broad and valued expertise that spurs further innovation and moves us to bold action. In this annual report, we pose some of those questions and share answers from valued stakeholders. That collaborative, forward-thinking approach is how we’ve led for a century and how we’ll continue to prepare future leaders for the future of the profession.
Head, Department of Accountancy PwC Faculty Fellow and RC Evans Data Analytics Scholar
How do you keep accounting education relevant to an evolving profession?
A LISTENING TO THE ANSWERS
You foster a culture of innovation.
For more than 30 years, Warren Stippich has had a front row seat as the College has set the standard for excellence and innovation in accounting education. Gies and the Department of Accountancy is a place, he says, “that is focused on preparing individual students as well as the profession for what comes next.” As an Illinois undergraduate, Warren’s front row seat was a literal one in the accounting classroom. It was an experience that provided him with a solid foundation and extensive opportunities as he entered the profession in 1990. Since then, the National Managing Partner at Grant Thornton says he has continued to witness that commitment to innovation as a recruiter for his organization, as president of the Gies Business Alumni Association, as an active volunteer on the department’s advisory board and the Dean’s Business Council, and, most recently, as an engaged parent of two accounting undergraduates. “What I’ve seen is that innovation is an ingrained mindset at Gies. There is no resting on laurels; instead, there is a consistent focus on thinking big and taking action. I’ve seen it in the constantly advancing skills of the students we recruit and even in the curricular innovations implemented in the three years between my son’s time in the College and my daughter’s. “By fostering a culture of innovation where everyone is encouraged to push the envelope, Gies has built a curriculum and an environment where ideas, and people, flourish. That’s what the profession needs and expects. As an accounting professional and a Gies alumnus, supporter, and parent, I’m proud to say that’s what this College and this department delivers.”
Warren Stippich ACCY ’90 National Managing Partner Advisory Services Quality and Risk Grant Thornton
How do you create an environment where innovation flourishes?
Get out front
The work of auditors and accountants is being reshaped by technological innovations like blockchain, and we’re working together with experts in the field to ensure our students are ready for the challenge. Under the leadership of Professor of Accountancy and Chief Disruption Officer Robert Brunner, we are hosting webinars and summits, and we have even created our own blockchain—iBlock —which is being used for teaching and research. Professor Brunner is also launching a new course this fall called “Blockchain, Tokens, and their Application in Business,” which will provide both undergraduate and graduate students with solid understanding of the impact of digital currencies, distributed ledgers, and decentralized autonomous organizations. At Gies, we’re not just teaching blockchain; we’re leading the revolution in blockchain education.
With the Accountancy Plus Data Science (ACCY + DS) undergraduate degree launching this fall, our department becomes one of the first to participate in the university-wide effort to deliver data science education. This interdisciplinary ACCY + DS degree pairs our award-winning accounting education with a data science core taught by university experts from computer science, math, statistics, and the School of Information Sciences. The ACCY + DS degree prepares our students for the current challenges of business, provides a solid foundation in accounting and data science, and allows students to build a unique skill set that opens doors.
You take a bold, action-oriented approach.
Provide opportunities As a leader in accounting education, we offer multiple options to earn graduate credentials in accounting and pathways toward the CPA credential. We currently offer stackable graduate accounting courses and certificates in Accounting Data Analytics and Strategic Leadership & Management, plus three new certificate initiatives that will extend these opportunities. Through our new Accounting Foundations, CPA Pathways, and Taxation Certificates, each of which earns at least 12 hours of transciptable graduate credit, students can choose their path and pace—from professional development to progress toward CPA licensure eligibility to building credentials that can be stacked into a degree in the future. These stackable courses and certificates will increase access by breaking down financial barriers and providing a flexible online option to meet the needs of working professionals and will increase the pipeline of CPAs in the profession.
What innovation looks like at Gies Accountancy We reframe problems as opportunities. We embrace disruption. We challenge assumptions. We prioritize flexibility. We think creatively.
How do you provide the best accounting education to working professionals around the world?
You give them access to some of the best accounting faculty in the world.
“Our online students are highly motivated, highly engaged, and bring a depth of work experience and backgrounds to the table. My focus is to create an atmosphere of collaboration where students not only develop in-demand business skills but also build relationships and learn from the diverse experiences of their peers. It’s been the most exciting journey of my professional career.”
“We’ve built our online learning to provide the rich, relevant content students need while also delivering an organic experience that grows from within. There is an immediacy to feedback through Chat where questions and comments are shared in the moment, and that moves everyone forward. Teaching online has made me a better instructor.”
Oktay Urcan Associate Professor of Accountancy and Fred & Virginia Roedgers Faculty Fellow in Accountancy
Gary Hecht Professor of Accountancy, Executive Director of Lifelong Learning, and Arthur Andersen Faculty Fellow
“Working professionals need the flexibility of online education, and Gies has a team of experienced faculty and eLearning experts who provide high-quality courses delivered with flexibility. Our students benefit from that deep experience. And faculty like me, who are stepping into online teaching, benefit from their mentorship and knowledge of best practices.”
“There is a real need for today’s accounting professionals to have data analytics skills, and our online courses deliver that. They learn about data analytics principles and tools, which allow them to put those skills to work right away in their jobs. And through our state-of-the-art delivery, we can connect like we’re in person and drive real learning in this important field.”
Clara Chen Lillian and Morrie Moss Distinguished Professor in Accountancy
Jessen Hobson Professor of Accountancy, Director of University of Illinois-Deloitte Foundation Center for Business Analytics, and PwC Faculty Fellow
How do you impact the future of accounting education?
Expert faculty mentorship As the nation’s first PhD program, our department has a proud tradition of preparing future accounting scholars and teachers. We also have the country’s #1 ranked faculty in accounting research, which means our PhD students learn from the experts. That’s how we impact the future of accounting education. “With three to four students in the PhD cohort each year, our program is small compared to our faculty size,” says Anne Thompson, associate professor of accountancy and PhD program director. “That provides students with the benefit of deep and broad expertise across topics and methods and allows for strong mentorship and collaborations.”
You commit to educating tomorrow’s accounting professors.
Innovative teaching tracks
Commitment to diversity
Our PhD students also have numerous opportunities to develop their teaching skills, first by observing instructors in best practices for two semesters and then by leading the accounting classroom themselves. A recent initiative offers them an opportunity to add to their teaching experience.
Inclusivity creates a vibrant accounting academy and a cadre of professors that gives all students the chance to see themselves in the accounting profession. Our department is committed to recruiting underrepresented minorities across all programs. This year, two of our PhD students, Jessica Thornton and Isaac Yamoah, were awarded AICPA Foundation Fellowships.
“Although PhD students can use data analytics in their research, few doctoral programs offer the opportunity to teach it,” says Thompson. “We’ve added a data analytics teaching track. This allows our doctoral students to benefit from the data analytics teaching expertise of our faculty, sets them apart as they pursue faculty positions, and benefits their future students.”
“Their recognition signals that Gies accounting attracts highly talented underrepresented students and is committed to diversity in the accounting academy,” says Associate Professor of Accountancy Nerissa Brown, who herself received the 2022 Lester H. McKeever Award for Advancing Diversity from the Illinois CPA Society. Beyond her advocacy for diversity in our accounting department and PhD program, Brown spearheaded the PhD Project Faculty Mentoring initiative, which serves more than 70 members at research institutions across the country. She has also received a grant, along with Gies Accountancy faculty Martin Persson and Kecia Williams Smith of North Carolina A&T, to research the academic contributions of underrepresented minorities to accounting thought.
Junyi Zhou says it made sense to spend a fifth year at Gies to earn a Master of Accounting Science “because the degree is specifically designed to qualify you for the CPA exam and prepare you to pass it.” The 2018 MAS graduate got that and more. “Not only did that extra year help me solidify what I had learned as an undergraduate, it gave me a chance to choose a specialization track, which further boosted my career.” That track was tax—a choice that was sparked during an accounting-focused spring break trip led by Department Head Michael Donohoe to study tax havens in the Virgin Islands. She says “the MAS tax track provided exceptional technical and soft skills training,” which she uses in her specialized role as a senior U.S. tax consultant at EY in Frankfurt, Germany. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the education I received at Gies.”
How do you measure the impact of our accounting alumni?
“There are synergies between law and tax, and I was looking for a program that was rigorous, had a strong academic reputation, and would allow me to fully explore my interests,” says the 2022 graduate who will work for Andersen Tax. “Gies has one of the nation’s top programs and is three hours from my home, so I moved to campus to be part of the residential Master of Science in Accountancy program.” And it’s been a perfect fit, she says. “The MSA degree has been an exceptional investment in my future. It’s given me the technical knowledge and the career preparation to succeed.”
After graduating from Gies in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Jenny Sheynin began working in international tax at Deloitte. To further develop her skills in that specific field, in 2018 she earned a master’s degree from Gies focusing on taxation. “The caliber of the professors and their depth of experience in tax provided exceptional training and a broad perspective,” she says. “Plus, I was in the program during the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, so we had hands-on exposure to tax code revisions in real time.” The education, and the connections, were difference makers. “The training and the professional network I’ve established through my Gies degrees boosted my career,” says Sheynin. She earned a promotion the year after she completed her degree and is now the international tax manager for Etsy, the global online marketplace. “With sellers all over the world, I continue to build on what I learned in my Gies education as part of my U.S.-international tax responsibilities.”
Josephine Nwachukwu has degrees in history and law and a real passion for accounting. So, after raising her family, she decided to pursue a path that would prepare her to return to the workplace in a role that focused on tax.
By their success and ability to influence the profession.