Department of Accountancy

"Firms continue to flock to our doorstep. The complaint is that we don't have more students for them to recruit. More and more non-traditional employers are interested in University of Illinois accounting majors."

- Ira Solomon, Project Discovery Director

willis.jpg (13098 bytes) EUGENE WILLIS ARTHUR ANDERSEN ALUMNI PROFESSOR OF ACCOUNTANCY, became head of the Department of Accountancy in August 1997. Willis, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati and has been a member of the UIUC faculty since 1975, had previously served as acting head of the department in 1993-94. A specialist in taxation and taxpayer compliance, he is a long-time co-chair of the University of Illinois Tax Symposium, and is also director of the AICPA-UI National Tax Education Program. A contributing author and editor for West's Federal Taxation textbook series, Willis has also developed texts for the CBA undergraduate curriculum, as well as courses for the Master of Science in Taxation (MST) program. He succeeds Andrew D. Bailey, Jr., as head of accountancy. Bailey, who is the Ernst & Young Professor of Accountancy, is now also director of CBA's International Programs and the Center for International Education and Research in Accounting.

PROJECT DISCOVERY, THE INNOVATIVE UNDERGRADUATE CURRICULUM HAILED AS A BREAKTHROUGH in accountancy education, is now fully implemented. Beginning in the fall of 1997, it became the only accountancy curriculum available to Commerce undergraduates, replacing traditional topics-based accountancy courses with a conceptual framework that uses a project- and issues-based approach.

In response to the time requirements of student projects, a third summer session, twelve weeks in length, has been implemented, allowing students maximum time to complete their work. "We've learned that it's very difficult to teach project-based courses in a condensed period," explains Project Discovery director Ira Solomon (also KPMG Peat Marwick Professor of Accountancy). "Now we're giving students approximately the same number of contact hours as during
the regular academic session." Adding the twelve-week summer session and offering core courses during that session also means students can study abroad for a semester and still graduate on time.

ILLINOIS ACCOUNTANCY STUDENTS SHINE ON THE CPA EXAM. Approximately 40 percent of the 178 UIUC graduating seniors who took the exam in May of 1997 passed first time around. Nationwide, during the period from 1994-96, the national pass rate for first-time CPA candidates was just 16.5 percent.

According to Professor Dick Ziegler, CPA coordinator, Project Discovery students did even better — 51 percent of those who sat for the grueling four-part, two-day exam passed. The pass rate was even higher — 54 percent — for Project Discovery students enrolled in the CPA review course. (A further
19 percent of the Project Discovery students received conditional passes, meaning they must re-take only one or two parts of the exam.) And, of the 60,000 students across the country who took the '97 May CPA exam, seven Commerce students, including three in Project Discovery, scored in the top 120. They are Karie Anderson, Michele Bezman, Jacques Galante, Andrew Grossman, Mark Killian, Brian Pasdach, and Janet Rosenblatt.


Norton M. Bedford, professor of accountancy emeritus, has written
A History of Accountancy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
This 164-page history documents a century of activities in the department. A copy
may be downloaded from the Web, at /history.html


Decisions, decisions. France? Or Spain? As a rising CBA junior in the spring of '96, Lily Luna pondered her choices for study abroad. But she couldn't make up her mind. So she did both.

Luna, an accountancy major, enrolled for fall semester of 1996 at Escuela Superior de Aministracion y Direccion de Empresas (ESADE) in Barcelona and for spring of '97 at Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Paris (ESCP) in Paris. "They are on the same continent," she points out. "And I could do it because the timing of the classes was right."

She adds: "There's not the stress over grades that's routine here. In Europe, it's really hard to get into university — but once you're in the school, that's what counts."

Being bilingual in Spanish helped mucho, of course — Luna's parents are Mexican and her Chicago childhood included a couple of years in Guadalajara. "My Spanish is different from the Spanish they speak in Spain. I'd use Mexican words to say different things and people would be, like, `What are you talking about?' And in Paris, people wanted to know more about Mexico than America. They're exposed to American things all the time." She could cope with such inquiries for she's versed in French, too, having studied it throughout high school and college. "I love to travel and learn languages," Luna says. "With knowledge of one Romance language it's not that hard to pick up another."

She found that UIUC was, well, kind of unknown abroad — "I had to explain a lot that it wasn't in Chicago." But once enlightened on the locale, people were intrigued. "A lot of students made jokes about `champagne' — `Oh, is that what you do over there?' they'd say." As to the European lifestyle, Luna found different versions in France and Spain. And she liked them both. "Paris was more romantic," she recalls. "Barcelona was more of a fun city. The Spanish are into partying and having a good time."

So — are two countries enough? For Luna, probably not. She also found time to travel all over Europe for two months, visiting fifteen countries in the company of her brother and some friends. Coopers & Lybrand flew her back this spring for a job interview in Paris. They offered her a job.

THE NEW CPA CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS, RECENTLY APPROVED BY THE ILLINOIS STATE LEGISLATURE, present a huge challenge to the accountancy program at UIUC. The requirements, which go into effect in 2001, raise the number of required credit hours to 150 — effectively adding a fifth year of study for students who wish to sit for the CPA exam. "We're trying to redesign the curriculum to reflect this reality," notes Professor Solomon. The expanded offerings, he observes, will raise the cost for entering the field of accountancy. "We're working with major employers to find ways to defray the costs of the increased requirements. We are looking at creative — and lucrative — possibilities. We're trying to be as innovative as we were with Project Discovery."