Moving is such difficult work. For a long time I thought I never would do it again. But now I must. C’est la vie!
I’ve lived in several university towns: Iowa City, Iowa; Berrien Springs, Michigan; Blacksburg, Virginia, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Bowling Green, Ohio. Now, I’m on to Moorhead, Minnesota and Concordia College.
My University of Iowa experience was pretty much like that of many baby boomers. I was a first generation college student, it was in my home town and very cheap ($125 for my first semester). I learned how to do many things: cut classes, play cards, drink beer, get bad grades, play pool, play foosball, jog for long distances, and root for the Iowa Hawkeyes. After dabbling in music performance (string bass), chemistry, fiction writing, spanish, history and political science, I didn’t leave my undergraduate days with much of anything. I didn’t even learn how to chase/catch girls. I was pathetic.
Maybe that’s not true. I learned how not to be a student. As an undergraduate, I would only occasionally tune in. If I focused on a class for a while, I’d attend most days and take copious notes. I’d then try to memorize everything for the next test. I never received a A. I now look back on realize that given how I went about being a student, I was fated never to learn anything or get good grades. Cutting so many classes resulted in several grades of D (4) and F (11). I now realize that it was impossible to memorize everything. But at the time I didn’t know any differently.
I recall one particularly futile incident. I memorized 30 pages of handwritten lecture notes and was confident that I’d really nail the next test in Psych 101. The test itself was largely multiple choice questions over research studies cited in the textbook. It came from a test bank. It was completely irrelevant to the classroom experience, and I was screwed. I got a bad grade and it was unrelated to what I had learned about introductory psychology. Years later as a new accounting professor, I tried doing that for a test. Adverse student reaction was enough for me to drop that particular testing approach forever. I have since learned that lecture plus multiple choice test actually combine to inhibit learning.
Never-the-less, I did pick up a few things that have influenced my life as an accounting professor. I recall Professor James Murray. He was an authority on international politics, and I took every course he taught. I wasn’t a very good student, but I did attend almost every class. He was an excellent lecturer. He had everything analyzed and organized. He’d read through his notes, bullet point by bullet point. I had so many pages of notes containing ordered lists of why this was done, or that happened, or why such and such will happen in the future. I don’t know that I wanted to grow up and be a professor just like him, but for me he was the embodiment of a great lecturing professor. In my early years as a teacher, I drew on my memories of him. Interestingly to me, I am drawing on my experience in international politics as I attempt to analyze IFRS adoption. I don’t recall a single bullet point from those days, but I did learn to reach below the surface to discover why things actually happen. I guess that shows sticky ideas can be delivered by lecture.
I also recall Professor Donald Johnson. I took a course or two from him, don’t remember liking them because he wasn’t like Murray in class. He’s important to me because we had one interaction. Only one, but it was significant. It was on my way out the door. He was my curriculum advisor, and asked what I was going to do with my life. It was the greatest generation speaking to the baby boomer generation. I thought about how I was going to drink beer and chase girls, but that wasn’t appropriate to say. I reached deep and came up with “profesional bridge player.” Years later I’m still embarrassed by that. He then opined that playing cards wouldn’t make the world a better place for anyone else but me. And that would be a shame because I would have squandered my opportunity to make a mark on the world. Years later I more fully understand what he was teaching me. People won’t remember you if your make your own life better. People will remember you if you help make their own lives better. The first is valueless to anyone else but you. The second is of great value to the universe. Professor Donald Johnson, in one brief interaction, added enough to my life that I remember him decades later.
I’m proud to say that I’ve turned preacher in my accounting classes. I offer that accounting is a calling, and through being an accountant it is possible make the world a better place. Moreover, as life is lived it is important to remember always that helping others is what makes life worth living. Living life only to make a lot of money seems is such a waste of really good human talent. People may envy you but won’t respect you. So many people need financial understanding but they don’t have a clue. It is for such people that we accountants serve.
I then took a break from school and worked for three years at the Iowa City post office along side my father. I wish every son could be so fortunate as I, to be with his father at work.
Next: what I learned from getting a masters degree in accounting from the University of Iowa.
Debit and credit – – David Albrecht