June 8, 2020
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The Department of Accounting continues its curriculum innovation to meet the changing needs of the accounting industry. As firms begin to incorporate data analytics, artificial intelligence and emerging technologies, students must have the foundational knowledge and technical skills to meet the new expectations in the profession. 

“Today’s accounting students need to be able to use data analytics in problem-solving and decision making,” says Chair Elizabeth Gordon. “Asking the right questions and using the right tools is what problem-solving is about.”

Across the undergraduate curriculum, students are learning how to select, analyze and present data in a business context. To do this, faculty are integrating technology and incorporating programs such as Tableau, Microsoft Excel and SQL into each accounting major course. 

Professor Jayanthi Krishnan added an online self-study Excel course from the Harvard Business Publishing (HBP) to her class last fall, as part of the department’s initiative. Students must take and pass the introductory course in cost accounting, as a graded assignment. 

An Excel course will be added to Accounting Information Systems this coming fall as a required component. The upper-level course includes complex Excel features such as functions, spreadsheet modeling, Excel Solver and Monte Carlo simulation.

“Based on a recent interview that we had with recruiters from PwC, Excel is often considered as the most important software for accounting students to learn,” Professor Yi Liang says. “Therefore, we believe that the introduction of this online course will help the students to be more prepared for the job market and also help their future career development.”

One of the first initiatives developed by the faculty was inclusion of certifications in ACL, now Galvanize, in the undergraduate auditing course.

“This is a platform that is used by CPA firms and corporations for fraud detection, prevention, and risk management, “says Professor Jagan Krishnan. “Students learn the process by which data is obtained, cleansed, analyzed, and transformed into information, using analytic routines.”

Students apply Tableau, a data visualization software application, across the curriculum. In Federal Taxes on Income and Accounting Information Systems, students use Tableau to manipulate data, create dashboards and share findings. 

“Data visualization is widely used by audit firms,” says Liang. “For example, Halo, PwC’s data analytics tool, uses data visualization to identify areas of high risks for organizations and generate useful insights.”

This year, Professor Cory Ng redesigned the senior seminar course to focus on data analytics in accounting. In the capstone project, students analyze publicly-available financial data, create a dashboard in Tableau, and communicate results in a paper and presentation. 

Looking toward the future, Gordon states, “Focusing accounting education on critical thinking, decision making and problem-solving provides the agility to fold in new technologies and trends as they emerge.”

AccountingAccounting DepartmentBetsy GordonCory NgCurriculumExcelHarvard Business PublishingJayanthi KrishnanPwCTableauYi Liang