Preparing future accountants to adapt to an ever-changing industry, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Research and Communication in Accounting (ACCT 455) course merges the worlds of business and theater. Taking the class helps students like Drew Minard, ’21, who graduates in May with a Master of Professional Accountancy (MPA) degree, communicate effectively in the workplace during even the most unpredictable situations.
Amanda Gonzales, associate professor of practice in accountancy, and Julie Uribe, ’84, lecturer at the Johnny Carson School of Theater and Film, developed the course and teach it through three five-week sessions. Gonzales focuses on strengthening students’ written communication skills while Uribe focuses on verbal communication through her improvisation training from the Groundlings School in Los Angeles and more than 25 years of experience in the television industry.
In Gonzales’ section of the required undergraduate class, Minard practiced conducting tax research. In his group’s final project, they researched a case selected by accounting professionals and presented their solutions, like they would with a future client. With Uribe, Minard and classmates participated in improvisation exercises, such as telling a story as a class one word a time, interviewing classmates about fictional events and participating in nonverbal activities like playing catch with a ball of air. Minard may have felt uncomfortable at times, but he never felt unsupported.
“We were all in it together, and it helped knowing I was in a supportive environment. These principles encouraged me to take risks and push myself,” he said.
The tools Minard and other students learn in the course help set them apart from peers as they transition into graduate school or the workplace. Encouraged by Arthur Allen, Raymond C. Dein College Professor and associate professor of accountancy, Minard decided to stay at Nebraska another year to earn an MPA degree.
“Drew has outstanding skills in all areas – speaking, research and writing, technical and analytic. He is personable, friendly and intelligent with an admirable work ethic,” Allen said.
While an MPA student, Minard found his communications and research training valuable, especially during his graduate assistantship in the Communications, Marketing and External Relations (CMER) office at the College of Business. He applied his accounting, communications and computer science knowledge to college projects from researching and collecting information, preparing monthly social media and website analytics reports, loading stories and photos for the website and communicating both in person and through email with a wide variety of people.
“The openness I learned from practicing improv has helped me get to know people both in and out of the college. I also have such a wide variety of tasks in my graduate assistantship that I show up to work every day not sure what to expect, so I often find myself engaging in the improv principle, ‘Yes, and’ which basically means to take what was shared and build off of it,’” he said.
With plans to work in public tax accounting, Minard feels better prepared for his full-time career due to the communication tools he learned and honed at the College of Business. After graduating from Nebraska for the second time in May, Minard will continue to work for the CMER office through the summer before starting as a tax associate at RSM U.S. LLP in its Lincoln and Omaha offices this fall.
“I anticipate using these skills in every aspect of my career. Communication skills can be the difference between an applicant who gets hired and one that doesn’t, or acquiring and retaining a client or not,” he said.
To learn more about the accounting major, visit: https://business.unl.edu/accountingmajor. To learn more about the MPA program, visit: https://business.unl.edu/mpa.