A group of students gathered outside the classroom where we had just completed the Intermediate Accounting II course final. We were relieved to be finished with a challenging exam. The entire final exam was to build a statement of cash flows when given a partially completed income statement and balance sheet plus a set of transactions. After listening to one student vent that we were given trick information and it wasn’t possible to complete the assignment, another student shared how the information was complete and he had misunderstood. I found the conversation very interesting because after having spent an entire semester in Professor John Hassell’s classroom, giving a trick final exam just didn’t align to the person he is.
I’d returned to the IUPUI accounting program to collect the required master’s level courses in accounting to qualify for the CPA Exam. My first class was Professor Hassell’s course, Intermediate Accounting II. In the first class, Professor Hassell said if we hadn’t taken Intermediate Accounting I in the past few years, we shouldn’t be in this class. And, we shouldn’t also be taking Professor Johnson’s audit course in the same semester. I waited after class to talk to Professor Hassell; I explained I was also taking that audit course and had taken Intermediate Accounting I over 20 years ago! He listened carefully and said if I was willing to work really hard, I should be fine. I’d just seen the gift he has to inspire people to strive for excellence and have confidence in themselves.
Professor Hassell explained early and often how to be successful in his class and in accounting. In his class, he explained we should be working three hours for every hour in class. Related to this, he explained that to be successful in accounting, we had to have a very solid understanding of the fundamentals that are building blocks to the more complicated accounting principles. These ideas motivated me to put in the time and complete all of the problems assigned, which at times were repetitive and felt unnecessary, but I realized along the way the solid foundation I was building helped me as we moved to more complicated material.
“I’m not trying to trick you.” I must have heard Professor Hassell say this a few times in each class. He would explain a concept and ask for class input. To me, this was an invitation to learn but also a profound statement to look at the facts presented to make a logical conclusion. And, most importantly, be willing to take some risk and share this conclusion. He was patient with students who were trying to learn and making mistakes along the way.
"I’m not trying to trick you.” I must have heard Professor Hassell say this a few times in each class. He would explain a concept and ask for class input. To me, this was an invitation to learn but also a profound statement to look at the facts presented to make a logical conclusion. And, most importantly, be willing to take some risk and share this conclusion. He was patient with students who were trying to learn and making mistakes along the way.
I talked with Professor Hassell after many classes. I had questions about assignments and concepts I didn’t understand. I was surprised by his energy after a long class and willingness to take time to make sure I had my questions answered. He was genuinely interested in me learning the material. This, of course, motivated me to continue to work hard and master the content.
A conversation we had later in the semester has stuck with me. To demonstrate all we had learned, the class reviewed the income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flows from a company’s annual report. Professor Hassell would note a few items on the statements and ask us to explain what actions the company had taken during the year. We were able to move through the financial statements and demonstrate that we had adequate understanding with every aspect of them. It was a powerful exercise to perform that brought financial statements to life and helped the students apply learning from the semester. But mostly, this significantly increased the confidence I had in my accounting skills.
I had decided to pursue my CPA license late in my career. My first step of that two-and-a-half-year journey was walking into Professor Hassell’s class. I was self-conscious to be older than most students and tired from a long day of work. I expected to earn credits to qualify for the Exam and improve my accounting skills. I didn’t expect to get the inspiration and confidence that would carry me through the Exam. I also didn’t expect to learn some lifelong lessons, like thinking about what success would take in advance of pursuing a goal. I used some version of his “three hours prep for one hour of class” for my next classes, the CPA Exam and work projects.
Professors are too often the unsung heroes. I will readily admit the impact Professor Hassell had on me. I’m confident there are many more Professor Hassell stories that are much better than mine. Because of this, it is my honor to select Professor Hassell for the Chair’s Award.
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