Accountants provide analysis that decision-makers use to negotiate contracts and structure deals, and to decide which products to promote, when and how to expand the business, and even how to redesign product. And people think we just do math!

Stacy Mastrolia

Professor Stacy Mastrolia, management, was the controller for an international manufacturing company when she decided to get her MBA. "In my classes, I watched professors tailor information uniquely for individual students, and I was hooked," she says. "I knew I wanted to teach." After completing her MBA, Mastrolia made a major career change, leaving behind 15 years in the corporate world and returning to school to earn her doctorate.

"I've never been happier," she says. "I love my students' energy and enthusiasm. And since accounting only has about 50 to 60 majors in each class year, I get to work closely with each of them."

Mastrolia says her experience in the business world helps her prepare her students for the future. Her courses not only cover the nuts and bolts of accounting, but they also help her students define their career goals. "Our program offers students a choice between a Certified Public Accountant track or a Chartered Financial Analyst track," she explains. "Which track a student prefers is based on their personality traits. CPAs can tend to be more process oriented and may gravitate to corporate accounting, while CFAs might prefer more interpersonal contact and be drawn to investment banking."

Mastrolia advises her students to plan for their first jobs but also to envision where they want to be in 10 or 20 years. "Accounting is a great field," she says. "We can work anywhere in the world, and we have great flexibility." She points out that some tax accountants can work intensely for four months and pursue other goals the rest of the year. For a tax accountant, the trick is to specialize, she says. "Get to know an industry really well. Learn its regulations and loopholes."

In one of her courses, Mastrolia assigns Accosting the Golden Spire, a pedagogical novel she coauthored with two other accounting professors. "It's a story about a jewel theft, an embezzlement and the forensic accounting profession," she explains. "It exposes the many gray areas of business, brings up questions of ethics and sparks a lot of class discussion. It also introduces students to professions in accounting and finance they may never have considered — or even heard of."

Accountants aren't just bookkeepers, Mastrolia stresses. "They provide analysis that decision-makers use to negotiate contracts and structure deals, and to decide which products to promote, when and how to expand the business, and even how to redesign product. And people think we just do math!"

Posted Sept. 30, 2015 

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