AICPA Announces Distinguished Achievement in Accounting Education Award Winners

May 28th 2013
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By Deanna C. White

Accounting school graduates aren't the only ones receiving accolades this spring.

On May 20, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) named Janet L. Colbert and Donald E. Tidrick as the recipients of the 2013 Distinguished Achievement in Accounting Education Award. The announcement was made by Richard Caturano, CPA, CGMA, chairman of the AICPA, at the AICPA Spring Meeting of Council in Washington, DC.

The Distinguished Achievement in Accounting Education Award honors full-time college accounting professors who excel as educators and who have achieved national prominence in the accounting profession, according to the AICPA. 

While the award has been presented since 1985, this year is the first time two educators have been selected to receive the award.

Award winner Janet L. Colbert, PhD, CPA, is currently Professor of Accounting and MBA Professor in the Department of Accounting, Information Systems, and Finance of the College of Business and Technology at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU)in Richmond. 

"Janet has been dedicated to both her students in the classroom as well as CPAs in the profession throughout her career and has been a role model to both groups", said Caturano. 

According to the AICPA, Colbert has been known throughout her career as a pioneer who has embraced technological changes in education. She codeveloped and co-taught Western Kentucky University's first online course for accounting, and she initiated the same technology at EKU when she joined the faculty there.

Colbert says technology will continue to be imperative for this next generation of accounting graduates.

"CPAs, CIAs, CMAs, and other accounting professionals must possess the skills to research the professional literature via technology", Colbert said. 

But Colbert said graduates shouldn't underestimate the importance of communicating the results of analyses in understandable formats to nonquantitative audiences.  

"The mass of information available via technology today and in the future proves overwhelming to some", Colbert said. "The accounting professional's focus should be on drawing out the critical data and on organizing and presenting that information for decision makers."

Award winner Donald E. Tidrick, PhD, CPA, is currently Deloitte Professor of Accountancy at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

"Donald has had success throughout his career in accounting education, both in the classroom and as a mentor, working with students as they have achieved their goals of becoming CPAs and starting their own careers", said Caturano. 

According to the AICPA, throughout his academic career, Tidrick has been known as a classroom innovator, who is able to prepare students for current challenges in field while still informing them on the core values of the accounting profession.

Tidrick strives to integrate a "real-world" learning perspective into his classroom, consistently incorporating video, guest speakers, and current events projects to engage students and keep them abreast of challenges facing future CPAs.

As an educator who has both a historical perspective of the CPA profession and a working knowledge of the cutting-edge issues accounting graduates will face once they leave the classroom, Tidrick said he believes this next generation of CPAs will face three crucial issues throughout their careers: 

  1. Rapid and consistent change, largely driven by technology.
  2. A consistently growing menu of professional services associated with public accounting firms.
  3. Changes to the workplace itself.

"Among the biggest challenges for future accounting professionals will be embracing, or at least coping with, the ever-accelerating pace of change impacting society, business, and the accounting profession on multiple dimensions", Tidrick said. "That adaptability also requires tolerance for uncertainty, since it is impossible to see very far through the fog of the future."

Tidrick says technology will obviously be a major driver of that change, which will dramatically affect how commerce occurs and people connect.

Tidrick said it also seems reasonable for future grads to expect an "ever-expanding menu of professional services" associated with public accounting firms – services subjected to regulatory constraints. That expanding menu, and its accompanying regulatory compliance, will create a climate "where some services will be affected by increasing regulatory complexities that amplify perceptions of 'standards overload,' and other services will be affected by evolving marketplace opportunities and new competitors."  

Tidrick also believes shifting generational and demographic factors will result in further changes in the workplace that will intensify competition among employers for talent in both the domestic and global talent pool.

So how can this year's graduates stay ahead of the groundswell of change facing their profession?

Tidrick says it is imperative for future CPAs commit to a lifelong program of self-learning to successfully adapt to the fluidity of their field.

"Lifelong learning is critical to adapting to changing circumstances, so it is important to have a commitment to a program of self-learning. It is also central to developing one's 'breadth' in broad business skills, while achieving 'depth' in a technical area of expertise", Tidrick said. "There is no denying the importance of staying current in relevant business technology, but I encourage my students to commit to 'high tech' and 'high touch'." 

Tidrick said that all professionals must build strong interpersonal relationships (with organizational superiors, with peers, and with clients); remain intellectually curious; and consistently ask questions as a basis for learning.

Ultimately, however, Tidrick says, some staples of success remain the same, even in the most mutable of circumstances.

"In an uncertain and changing world, career opportunity and security are largely functions of the skill sets that one possesses", Tidrick said. "However the future unfolds, there will always be great opportunities for intelligent, well-trained, motivated professionals who enjoy working with and helping other people."   

The AICPA supports and partners with the accounting academic community on a number of initiatives. For more information visit the AICPA website

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