I believe that every person needs to understand the basics of accounting. They will encounter it at some point in their lives, whether personally or professionally. The challenge in teaching accounting classes is helping non-accounting students understand how the class will apply to their professional and personal lives.
My first quarter as an instructor at Globe University-Madison East was no exception. The quotes I heard from students were, “I was told all I need to know is my accountant’s phone number,” and “This does not make a bit of sense to me. Why do I need to know it?”
During each lesson, I made every attempt to apply the concepts to what may be seen in real life, but eyes still glazed over. We kept pushing forward in the class, as I knew the light bulb would eventually go on, or something in their lives would help them understand.
Success came during the quarter for one student when he decided to move forward with opening his own business. In talking to banks for funding, he soon realized he wasn’t going to get any money from the bank unless he could put together financial statements for his business.
For others, the success came after class ended. Patrick Campfield is a Music Business student who took an accounting class to fulfill program requirements. I chatted with Patrick during the first part of the spring quarter, and his eyes lit up when I asked him if he used what he learned in accounting yet. He said:
“A friend helped me put together notes for the final exam, taking my thoughts and putting them out on paper for me. At the time, she didn’t know anything about accounting either. After the final, she was transferred to the billing department, remembered helping me take the notes, and has since asked me for help. She calls me asking me how debits and credits work, and I can actually explain it to her. Also, at regular meetings, the fire department receives a summary of the finances. I understand the reports better, and I have asked more questions when something was not accounted for properly or was questionable. I also understand control environments better, and have questioned whether the controls over the finances of the department are adequate, as the same person is depositing funds, writing checks and creating the financial statements.”
Patrick is a great example of a student who didn’t think he needed accounting, yet realized very quickly its value. I look forward to seeing more accounting light bulbs turning on in the future.
By Emily Olson, Accounting Program Chair, Globe University-Madison East & West