Accountants Invade San Diego in August!

By  Marcia Behrens and Mel Fleming

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Earlier this month, we were among the approximately 3,000 attendees who participated in the American Accounting Association annual meeting in San Diego, the theme of which was “Imagining our Future.” The diverse group included students, doctoral candidates, faculty, textbook authors, members of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and some regional CPA societies, CPA firms and vendors of various accounting resources. In addition, there were representatives from key accounting rule-making and regulatory groups such as the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In fact, Mel met the former Head of the SEC in a session she attended, and he shared both some of the recent cases and impacts of new standards.

Because there were so many sessions and activities offered, the session sizes (except for the plenary and Accounting standards update) were limited to 18-20 participants. This size provided us with great networking opportunities to share teaching practices, and methods and techniques for dealing with student behavior/participation in the classroom.
The conference officially began on Monday; however, we attended some pre-conference workshops on Saturday and Sunday which provided continuing professional education credit required for maintenance of our CPA certification.

One of the highlights of the conference was a focus group in which we were active participants. The focus group was led by John Wild, the author of the textbook which we have been using for over 5 years for our Acc238 Financial Accounting classes. He was very interested in feedback on his current text and was very open to comments, concerns, etc. which were documented by his co-author. He also walked us through some of the changes that he made to the textbook which we will be using in Fall, 2017. He also offered to provide us with any additional resources to supplement the text. In this focus group, Wild and other McGraw-Hill personnel actively solicited input from faculty regarding the extent to which recent technical accounting regulations should be covered in an introductory textbook.

The consistent themes throughout the conference were:

  • Explanation of the rationale for and implementation examples of some of the new Accounting standards (Leases and Revenue Recognition) and their impacts on public and private business entities;
  • Increased usage of the flipped classroom approach as well as effective techniques for online classes;
  • Utilization of technologies like Excel and QuickBooks in the classroom because of their extensive usage in business environments. Software tools for instructor use in the classroom were also presented;
  • Benefits of Big Data and Data Analytics, particularly in the field of Auditing, to replace manual techniques performed to detect any trends, etc. that may require further review and evaluation;
  • Introduction of Forensic Accounting courses in curricula;
  • Enhanced financial statement disclosures, particularly in the areas of corporate social responsibility, since investors and shareholders are finding that information increasingly valuable to their investment decisions;
  • Generational impacts of our students which educators need to be attuned to and adapt their teaching styles appropriately. This includes the widespread reluctance of students to read textbooks, resulting in some authors adopting a “bullet approach” to presenting material; and
  • Awareness of recent discoveries in cognitive psychology that define learning as a science and educators framing their responsibilities within the context of “the art and science of teaching.”

The accounting field is evolving at a rapid pace and the FASB, IASB, and SEC representatives mentioned numerous activities that they have “on their plate” for the coming years. These have significant implications not only for industry but educators, practitioners, and students, so we must keep up our pace through reading, research, and attendance at meetings/conferences such as this one.

In a continuing effort to dispel the notion that accountants are dull and boring, we forced ourselves to enjoy some of the sights, sounds and beauty of San Diego after sessions were completed for the day. We felt the sand in our shoes, the wind through our hair, danced to music from local groups (guess who was a more active participant?!), and traveled on the lovely blue waters. Contrary to Tony Bennett’s famous song regarding San Francisco, we left our hearts in San Diego.

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