When Andrew Bailey took on the presidency of the American Accounting Association, he told his wife that one thing this job meant for certain was that he would not be moving in the near future. And he duly turned down all invitations to be considered for university posts that would take him away from Tucson and the University of Arizona. He loved the city, loved the area, loved the weather, and loved his job. Then he got an offer he couldn't refuse - to interview for the headship of the number one accounting program in the country: the University of Illinois. After much soul-searching, and some hesitation brought about by his heavy load as president of the AAA, Bailey and the Department of Accountancy came to an agreement. He would take the job if the Ul could wait until January of 1995 when his post at the AAA as well as several other commitments would have concluded. That way, he could devote all his energies to running the department.
Why was the offer at Illinois so appealing? Of course, it's hard to refuse coming in at the top of the best. But the job at Illinois also offered challenges, and that is what finally tipped the scales.
Two aspects of the job were particularly appealing. The current curriculum revision, Project Discovery, a new approach to interactive learning, and the opportunity to build the department. Although the accounting department is one of the college's largest in number of majors, there are only 18 tenure-track faculty. Bailey says he enjoys recruiting, and looks forward to his opportunity to build the department.
So, he was attracted to Illinois for the following reasons: he's been given the go ahead to recruit additional faculty; he is committed to change - on a continuing basis - and strongly favors the restructuring of the undergraduate programs that the department embarked on three years ago.
Specific plans for the department fall into four, sometimes overlapping, categories.
The first order of business will be STRATEGIC PLANNING to develop a mission, goals, and strategies for the future. This activity will be pursued intensely in the late fall and continue in the spring. Ernst & Young has agreed to act as a facilitator and will also provide some administration. The expected outcome of this exercise is a plan for the future. After this intense period of strategic planning, the department will continue the process because continual improvement is part of Bailey's philosophy. One of the major outcomes will be a continuing commitment to Project Discovery.
PROJECT DISCOVERY represents a shift from learning by information dissemination to learning by discovery. Technical material will still be taught in the discovery program, but there will be an emphasis on written and oral communication skills, on a team- learning approach, on active learning (learning by doing), and on analysis of information, rather than its preparation. Project Discovery is a new concept in education. Here the emphasis is on faculty as facilitators, not disseminators. This concept is new to students and new to many faculty. The concept is not new to the pace setters in the accounting profession, and they are the ones who have pushed the academic accounting community in this direction. To start a new program is expensive. This one is particularly so because it has to be built from the ground up. When the program is fully funded, Discovery courses will be the ones used throughout the program. Project Discovery will be ongoing: It will never stop growing and changing as the needs of the profession evolve.
The Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC) and the top level of the profession are eager for these changes to take place. In fact, The AECC called for them by issuing a challenge grant. The profession felt that new accounting majors are coming to them with excellent technical skills, but not the integrated skills that practice requires at present. Firms prize communication and analytic skills in particular. At the local level, they want to hire students who can do the job. project Discovery will, however, retain what is best from the old approach, so our students will be ready to operate in all arenas of their profession.
RECRUITING new faculty is important to any goals the department sets. Faculty are the key to all new initiatives. Curriculum reform requires a stable, tenure-track faculty. In time, Discovery, which is now a pilot project, will become the only way accounting courses are delivered. Our commitment to undergraduate education in no way diminishes the importance of scholarly research. As one of the leaders in accounting research, we cannot abandon our research mission.
As less and less of the university's budget comes from state appropriations, the college and departments find themselves relying more and more on PRIVATE SUPPORT to provide the margin of excellence. Project Discovery is expensive. We cannot count on the small increments provided by the state. Discovery, with its smaller classes, requires additional faculty to teach the courses, and faculty time to develop them. In the future, the department will be beating the bushes for funds for: * Program enhancement - funds are needed for released time for faculty who are involved in program, curriculum, and course development. Faculty also need time to learn new technologies, to develop what Bailey calls "platform skills" which in the advent of the new technology involves multimedia presentations along with public speaking skills.* Buying Equipment - efforts will be made to find donors who will purchase much needed state-of the art technology so we can keep current. Not an easy thing to do with the revolution raging around us.
Bailey indicated that he is excited about the prospects for the Department of Accountancy and looks forward to becoming head of the department in January.