Just as we want accounting students to take arts & sciences courses, we want biology and history majors to know more about accounting principles to make them well-rounded people.

Curtis Nichols

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the idea of taking an introductory accounting class, especially for a non-business major, might be greeted with a groan.

But Professor Curtis Nicholls, management, says that he and his fellow faculty have taken that as a challenge. Since its inception, the introductory accounting course at Bucknell has transformed. The course is relevant, Nicholls says, for the liberal arts student and has been attracting undergraduates across disciplines.

"It really goes along with Bucknell's commitment to the liberal arts," he says. "Just as we want accounting students to take arts & sciences courses, we want those biology and history majors to know more about accounting principles to make them well-rounded people."

One aspect Nicholls is particularly excited about is that the introductory course now includes a lifetime budgeting segment — not just how to save money for an extra music download at college, but how to be financially responsible post-graduation.

The budgeting segment of the course is more than just filling out a spreadsheet — it requires students to research the expenses of life after college. They have to look for real apartment possibilities and know the tax consequences of working in the cities they might choose after graduation.

"Students can also take into consideration relationships, be they marriage or family, and how that might play into finances," says Nicholls.

He has also found that more students who eventually want to work in the nonprofit field are taking introductory accounting. Nonprofits, he said, often do not have enough money to finance their own accounting departments, so it behooves nonprofit employees in other functions to know accounting principles. Because of that lack of manpower and knowledge of accounting principles, nonprofits can be susceptible to fraud, Nicholls says, so he includes forensic accounting in the introductory course, where students examine a case study and try to figure out how fraud might be avoided.

Nicholls has worked with other professors to turn those principles he teaches into research papers, which he feels is important in a university like Bucknell.

"Everyone who teaches at Bucknell knows that is the first priority," he says. "Because of that, I feel that any research we do has to be able to be turned back into the classroom. It keeps us relevant — and that, in turn, helps our students."

Updated Sept. 30, 2016

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