"I wasn't bored for a second!" Exclaims American University Student

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Last Friday, 15 students and I started a 3-day journey into accounting. This program was for the School of International Service, so a majority of these students are seeking a career in the non-profit sector and will likely use financial statements for budgeting purposes. Because the class is 3 full days, the students earn 1 credit towards graduation.

The first hour of the first day is always pretty slow as we go through introductions but by the end of the day every student is quiet. After having posted 14 basic business transactions and diving into financials statements, they are always pretty tired. This silence used to make me nervous but I've realized that this lack of sound is because the students are thoroughly digesting the material. I dismissed class with the assignment to bring in some financials to analyze the following day. Students came to me after class asking why this isn't used as the accounting 101 curriculum? "Is accounting really this easy?"

The next morning, I asked my students, "How many of you taught someone accounting last night?" Three quarters of the students raise their hands. This wasn't a homework assignment, yet they were eager to share their learnings with their spouses, significant others, and even friends while they were at a bar. We jumped into Not For Profit Accounting and distinguished the differences between for profit and not for profit. We then went into case study questions about the Not For Profit entity, calculating Gross Profit Margin and substituting figures based on issues such as inventory loss, spoilage, theft, etc. After class, students came to me asking how to get this training at their places of employment, they had told their bosses about the program and they were eager to bring this skills training in house.

On the last day of class, we went through an exercise of government accounting, veracity analysis, and then we did personal finance. I had people record their assets and liabilities to calculate their net worth. The most interesting part is when we do their income statement and they see how little revenue is coming in and how expenses (even the small ones) can add up very quickly. Some people were shocked. They assumed their net worth was better but now that they could visually see the figures. I always have personal finance in these 3-day programs because good habits start at home, so if these students keep on top of their personal finances then this skill will translate into their professional realm.

The students completed an exam to test their skills and everyone passed with flying colors. The best part of this program is the ability to get people excited about numbers. Not only do they understand them but they are eager to learn more and this is sometimes the more powerful learning, the ability to instill this curiosity in the students.

I met with a program director at AU and he shared with me the feedback from the course Peter taught last October. It was the same course but with more emphasis on Social Enterprise. I want to share some of the feedback:

"AMAZING! The best course I have taken so far! I would recommend this class to everyone EVER."

"Even for someone with an accounting background this course was fantastic and a great refresher that also illuminated concepts I didn't understand before."

"This course was awesome! I have an MBA, and it wasn't until I took this course that I really understood Accounting. This class should be taught for longer than just a few days."

"Best course I've had at AU! I no longer hate/am afraid of accounting. I want more!"

"Amazing! Changed my perspective completely on Accounting. This is the best course I've ever taken. I felt like I got my money's worth. So thankful!"

First posted February 2014, by Jennifer Geier