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Another One Bites the Dust

I just finalized my grades for my 61st semester at Villanova (not counting summer teaching). It wasn’t quite as exciting as the season finale for Designated Survivor, but nonetheless I’m sure it was something my audience was looking forward to just as much.

It’s one of the things I like about my job, the way it is organized around semesters.  This offers the opportunity to bring closure to a course, and then start all over again with a new group of students, and try some new things along the way.

This was the first semester in quite some time that I’ve only had one prep – I taught three sections of our Intro to Business course. The course content is fairly basic, so we try to supplement it with additional material and projects.

For those who may be interested, here’s a brief description of the supplementary material:

Professional Development: students are required to attend at least three professional development events during the semester, one each in the areas of Career Planning, College Major Planning, and Professional Skills Development. After attending the events, the students are then required to write up a brief summary of the event and their opinion of the event. These write-ups need to be in certain formats – the first one was a business email, the second one was a business memo, and the third was a blog. If you want to see their blogs, here is a link to all 78 of them!

ICE Challenge: ICE Stands for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship. Working in teams of three students, each team has one week to come up with an idea for a new business and then they have two minutes to present their idea to the class. At the end of class, students vote on the best ideas. The winning teams from each section (there were 18 sections in the business school) then compete against winning teams from the College of Engineering and the College of Nursing. At that event, the judges are Deans from the various colleges and local entrepreneurs.

Vision Board Project: I’ve talked about this one before.

Book Reviews: I’m a big believer in the power of reading a good book, and this semester I required my students to read two books besides their textbooks. The two books were Grit by Angela Duckworth and Deep Work by Cal Newport. Interestingly, I just received a couple of emails today that referenced a couple “Best Books of 2016” lists, and Grit was on one list, and Deep Work was on the other list. Besides these two books, the students also received a copy of Do the KIND Thing the summer before they started, and were required to answer a series of questions regarding the book. (This is part of the Read to Lead program that I have written about before).

Annual Report Project: working in teams of three, each team is assigned a different company and asked to to through the company’s 10-K and answer a variety of questions, such as what was their sales growth for the current year,, who is their CEO, who is their auditor, etc. It’s a way to exposed them to such reports early on in the curriculum.

Financial Statement Analysis Project: working in the same team of three from the Annual Report project, students are required to calculate a variety of financial ratios for their company, and then offer recommendations on whether they would invest in the company and whether they would lend money to the company.

Besides these projects, we also had a variety of guest speakers during the semester.

Three of the guest speaker events were for all sections of the Intro course, not just mine:

Global Business Panel: comprised of five Villanova alumni who have had successful careers in the world of international business, the alumni offered their perspective on what our students could expect to face when they begin their careers.

Jay Wright: yes, that’s right, THE Jay Wright. Each year he does a presentation to our freshmen business students on leadership and attitude. He then stick around for selfies afterwards! A tough act to follow…

John Leahy, President of the KIND Snack Company and Villanova alum: John shared his insights into the company and answered questions students had about the company after having read the book. Lots of KIND giveaways as well!

Besides these guest speakers, I had five of my own:

  • a senior manager from one of the Big 4 (former student)
  • a financial services analyst during the week and an artist (photography, poetry) on weekends (former student)
  • a former Big 4 associate, now working in student life at Villanova after going to Penn for a Masters in higher ed and changing careers (former student)
  • a trio of folks from Toll Brothers, including the CFO, the treasurer (a former student), and a recent Villanova grad
  • a plant controller from Johnson & Johnson (former student) discussed the results of the Strengths Finder survey, which J&J graciously paid for our students to complete. The students were able to discover their top five strengths.

In addition to the basic course content, I also try to start each class with a brief overview of some of the key stories from that day’s Wall Street Journal, and when possible, relate it to what we have been learning in class.

It’s a fun course to teach, and freshmen are my favorite group to teach.

The one thing I had hoped to do this semester was have several walking meetings with students, as a way of getting to know them a bit better. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I had hoped. I only did one such walk all semester. It was a wonderful walk around campus and we had a good conversation, but I just never seemed to be able to find time to have such walks (teaching nine hours a week really fills up my calendar) :)

I think part of that issue was the fact that I was taking Calculus I this semester, and learning how to be a successful student again took a lot more time than I imagined. I have signed up for Calc II nest semester, but I think/hope that I will be better able to manage my time.

Anyway, this post was a nice way for me to take a look back at the semester and start thinking about what can be done better next time I teach the course.

In the meantime, I’ve got a few weeks off before the next semester starts in which I’ll be teaching Managerial Accounting (mostly juniors) and Cost Accounting (mostly seniors, in their final semester), two of my other favorite courses to teach.

So that’s a wrap on semester 61. Another One Bites the Dust.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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