By Natali Naegle
When I took my first and second accounting classes, I satisfied the academic requirement. When I took my third and fourth accounting classes, I placated my dad, an engineer and small-business owner who recognized the value of understanding accounting (and who was helping to foot my education bill, so I did whatever he asked). When I took Professor Chris Skousen’s accounting class, I finally appreciated accounting for shaping me into a better future business leader.
As my favorite professor, Dr. Skousen connected academic principles to real life work examples. In his intermediate accounting class, he pushed us to analytically solve complex problems that we might face as business managers, and he showed us how an understanding of accounting could help us make better decisions as leaders. He cared about his students and spent significant time outside of the classroom if we needed help understanding the material. What I’ll never forget, though, is how he taught us not to go to prison. It may sound silly, but he reminded us that the greatest cases of fraud, like Enron and WorldCom, usually start and end with accounting. Any accounting class can teach debits and credits, but he emphasized the ethical and analytical practice of accounting, and the importance of standing up for our values.
Even though I appreciated Dr. Skousen’s accounting class, I still assumed I wouldn’t use accounting after I graduated, because I didn’t plan to follow the traditional accounting path to a Big Four firm. How wrong I was! I ended up in Los Angeles, Calif., working in forensic accounting for a bankruptcy trustee. As I worked on those high profile litigation cases where billions of dollars disappeared, I saw first-hand the effects of the fraudulent accounting practices Dr. Skousen warned me about. Finally those dots between education and practice connected, and I owe much of that to his teaching. I’m grateful that he taught me how to use analytical and ethical accounting to make better decisions, and the Huntsman School is lucky to have him shaping the next generation of leaders.