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Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023

Class Work Involves Technology-Based

Projects SDSU Accounting School Upgrades Get Recognized

While change can be a double-edged sword, it is usually necessary to stay competitive in an ever-changing business community.

Some in the accounting industry have found success by embracing change as time and technology blur the line between the needs and wants of companies.

In anticipation of a changing business environment, SDSU in 1993 started to transform the way students were prepared for the work force, according to Andy Barnett, director of the School of Accountancy.

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After gradual changes, modifications, and a few raised eyebrows along the way, the School of Accountancy is now getting a lot of attention and recognition for their efforts.

Sharon Lightner and Carol Houston, associate professors, received the 1999 Collaboration Award from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the American Accountants Association. They received the award for developing the Experiential International Accounting Course in collaboration with practitioners and experts in the field. The course allows students in five different countries to work together on projects in both national and international teams.

In addition, several schools around the nation and the American Accounting Association have invited SDSU to present their program.

– Slow To Implement

Educational Changes

Barnett, who has been with the school for 17 years and has been director for two, said educational facilities are notorious for being slow to implement changes and that SDSU was no exception. However, the school has become one of several that constantly examine and re-examine the relevancy of the curriculum.

The school operates with a philosophy that accommodates change at a faster pace.

“You can’t anticipate every single change, but you can prepare the student for change,” he said.

With that in mind, the school went from the lecture-to-test method to a more interactive and practical learning environment. Classes now incorporate teamwork, the Internet and other technologies, communication skills and various aspects and areas of accounting all at once, he said.

The school tries to teach students skills employers want.

“We are very careful to emphasize those things that prepare students for changes as opposed to just focusing on the content that might be expected on the CPA exam,” he said.

Students also learn how to consider all aspects of accounting when working on a project, he said.

“We don’t have topic-centered courses,” Barnett said. “We integrate the topics whether it be financial accounting, managerial accounting, auditing, tax accounting, information systems accounting and each course is likely to have several or all of those topics in them.”

– Students Active In

Using Technology

Pupils also see technology not as a tool, but as a way to do business.

“They submit their presentations or work products via the Internet in many cases. They do a lot technology-assisted presentations using the computer, PowerPoint, and things like that,” he said.

“We believe the faculty shouldn’t necessarily be using that type of presentation technology; they should be teaching the students to use it. So when we talk about active learning, the students are making presentations all through these classes,” he said.

Technology and teamwork are the way to do business now and in the future, according to Barnett.

Byte Bender Business Services, a Rancho Bernardo-based non-CPA business accounting firm, is an example of a company that uses both.

The firm’s goal is to provide companies with a full-service account department without the cost of maintaining one. The company has more than 30 clients with annual revenues of $1 million or more.

Depending on the workload, Byte Bender employs seven to 20 people between the main office and a satellite office in Yuma, Ariz. Nevertheless, Leah Thiss, CEO and president of the firm, noted the company works as a team when it comes to hiring new employees.

– Technology Is

A Driving Force

While teamwork is important, technology is the driving force behind the services the company offers. Technology has helped the company interact with clients in many different ways, Thiss said.

Byte Bender would not be able to provide he services offered without today’s computer technology, she said.

Although the capabilities of the Internet, E-mail and high-speed lines are vital to the firm’s operations, software is just as important. “Without the technology of computerized accounting, we would not be able to use the technology as we do today,” she said.

Client reaction has been excellent, according to Thiss, especially for businesses that want real-time data and backup data. The firm provides customers with access to both old-fashioned reports and real-time data online.

Some businesses or organizations like the San Diego Film Commission would rather outsource their accounting needs rather than hire someone.

Cathy Anderson, film commissioner and CEO of the nonprofit agency, said that technology has helped institute instantaneous changes in salaries and other areas.

Byte Bender has managed a budget of about $900,000 for the commission since 1997 when it became independent from the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce. The organization opted to outsource the accounting department rather than hire a full-time employee.

– Benefits Of A

Full Accounting Staff

Although Anderson likes the way Byte Bender does business, she spoke more about having a full accounting staff available.

“For a very minimal amount of money, we end up having what we need in accounting We have a very competent staff of people, not just one person but a staff, and what this does for you is give you the opportunity to work with many personalities,” Anderson said.

“It gives you all levels of expertise and you don’t have to pay benefits and you don’t have to have someone full-time in your office. And I think it gives another outside perspective to your budget and to your accounting problems.”

Just as Byte Bender’s business strategy has received a good response from clients, employers also have been positive with the training SDSU offers students.

“A couple of the things that seem to surface in conversations with employers and former students is they can deal with new tasks more independently than they could before; they are not afraid of change they are more capable of being sensitive to team members and working with teams,” Barnett said.

The school’s focus on communication, presentation, independent and other skills teaches students the “lifelong learning skills that are basic to whatever the trends bring to a person with a career in accounting,” he said.

– Employers Look For

A Variety Of Skills

Employers are looking for these types of skills, according to the 2000 Recruitment and Retention Survey of Accounting and Finance Professionals by Accounting Principals, a subsidiary of Modis Professional Services.

According to 52 percent of survey respondents, accounting and finance managers and executives could benefit from communication skills training.

The same percentage also said non-manager accounting and finance professionals need problem-solving training.

Other top training needs for non-managers include time management, teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills, according to the survey.

The survey also noted employers in each industry experienced “some level of difficulty” in efforts to recruit staff, accountants and financial analysts.

Barnett said jobs are “plentiful” for graduates and undergraduates.

– Job Outlook Is

Good For Graduates

Although accounting is the largest major in the School of Business, he said four times as many graduates could have been placed last year.

As a result, salaries and benefits are becoming competitive, Barnett said.

The survey cited health and medical plans, tuition reimbursement, and vacations/time off as the most effective methods used to retain employees.

Despite the high demand in the field, Barnett said the school is experiencing a decline in enrollment. SDSU has experienced a 12 percent decline in the number of graduates compared to figures from two years ago, he said.

Barnett said the decline is a nationwide trend that has caught the attention of educators.

While the decline may be evident, the reasons for it are not so clear. Barnett said the School of Accountancy might be losing students to other majors or jobs as possible explanations.

He said that students may find careers in technology or other aspects of business more exciting than accounting. Also, students are able to find jobs as undergraduates because the demand is so high.


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