Going beyond classroom walls can bring academics to life
When I was in high school, I had a love/hate relationship with math. I passed algebra with flying colors and found nerdy joy in the challenge of solving for an “x” variable in an equation. Geometry wasn’t too complicated once I grasped the basics of the Pythagorean Theorem. But calculus — oh, dreaded calculus. Calculus just never clicked in my brain. So even though I was a fairly strong student who enjoyed learning, I became a different person every time I had to deal with calculus. I remember many frustrating nights staring at a calculus textbook and reciting a refrain heard by many teachers and parents over the years: “When am I ever going to use this?!”
I had little desire to learn calculus because I didn’t understand the real-world applications of the subject. My algebra textbook provided myriad real-world applications — measuring the speed that a car needs to travel to arrive in a certain amount of time; determining the price for a product given a desired profit margin. Likewise, my geometry homework was constantly referencing real-world problems — like calculating measurements for a construction project. But high school calculus homework just made me solve math problems with no connection to the real world. Once I got to college economics courses, I finally understood some tangible applications for calculus and the subject didn’t seem so intimidating. Ever since then, I’ve learned that whenever I’m struggling to understand a concept, I simply need to connect it to a real-world situation.
During my time at Goizueta, I haven’t had to work too hard to figure out ways to apply business school lessons to real-world situations. At Goizueta, we don’t study business in a vacuum. Rather, our professors are constantly connecting theory and practice. One way that we bridge this gap is through simulations — interactive learning experiences where we make business decisions and receive immediate feedback about how our decisions impact metrics like sales, profit and share price. Another way we bridge this gap is by sharing anecdotes from our day jobs to contribute to class discussions.
One of my favorite ways that a course has connected theory and practice took place during my managerial accounting course this past summer. Professor Karen Sedatole recognized that many of us do not plan to pursue careers in accounting; nevertheless, she wanted us to understand how important it is for any business leader to have a basic understanding of managerial accounting. Therefore, one of our primary assignments was to interview an accounting professional at our place of employment, and then write journal reflections recounting the ways that we see managerial accounting at work at our respective companies.
While I was initially dreading the thought of digging into the accounting world at my company, I’ve found the journal exercise to be a very helpful experience. As I’ve sought out answers to my journal prompts, I’ve been nudged to form cross-functional relationships with new colleagues. I invited two accounting colleagues to lunch — two people that I probably would have had little interaction with had it not been for this assignment. During the next two hours as we discussed fixed and variable costs, operating leverage, performance measurement and more, I realized that accounting is so much more than just budgeting and number crunching. Managerial accounting plays an integral role in affecting the strategic direction of a company.
Sometimes all you need is just to go beyond the classroom walls to help a course come to life. Ten years from now, I may forget the details of the lessons from managerial accounting; however, I guarantee that I won’t forget the lunch where accounting concepts really came to life.
I’m grateful that I don’t have to wait until graduation to apply my business school education to the real world. The real world is already deeply ingrained in the Goizueta experience.