To the layman, accounting might appear to consist of little more than moving numbers from one column to another.
After a lifetime spent working in and teaching about accountancy, he sees it as a vital, exciting field filled with twists and turns and endless possibilities. After a semester in his classroom, most of his students see it that way, too.
For his ability to help others find the significance and excitement in accounting, and in recognition of a professional lifetime working to improve how the subject is taught, the Illinois CPA Society named Young its 2012 Outstanding Accounting Educator.
When Young accepted the award at a June 5 banquet in Chicago, he became the seventh faculty member from the NIU Department of Accountancy to receive the award, joining Don Kieso, Pat Delaney, Dick Baker, Debra Hopkins, Don Tidrick and Pam Smith.
Smith, who was among those writing in support of Young’s nomination, called him a worthy addition to that legacy of past NIU winners. “Jim Young’s impact on students in and out of the classroom at NIU is undeniable,” she said. “On a daily basis he demonstrates extraordinary commitment to the profession, inspires and stimulates student growth, applies and upholds rigorous standards and works actively with fellow faculty members to improve instruction.”
Young has built a reputation as an innovator in the classroom, devising new teaching paradigms that place tax policies into an historical context to help students better understand and apply tax knowledge. Through one-on-one mentoring and by publishing articles, Young has shared his ideas with colleagues at NIU and across the country.
Those methods are highly effective, say his students.
“Dr. Young has a unique ability to take complex subject matter and clearly pass it on to his students,” said Steven Spierdowis, a 2012 graduate. “His approach to teaching is not to ask, ‘What do my students need to pass the CPA exam?’ but rather, ‘How deep of an understanding can I instill in my students in the 15 weeks we have together?’ ”
Of course, it takes more than methodology to get students excited about tax laws. It also takes a passion for the subject, which Young has. His ability to create an infectious curiosity, often by sharing stories of his days as a working CPA, drives them to learn more than many students ever thought possible, students say.
That enthusiasm, and the outcomes it produces, have not gone unnoticed by Young’s peers.
From his arrival at NIU in 2000 until 2006, when he took the reins of the accountancy program, Young received the top peer review scores in the department each year. Even now, his teaching consistently draws some of the top marks from students, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels, despite his reputation for challenging coursework.
As chair of the department, Young has successfully striven to maintain the reputation that has kept the program among the Top 25 in the nation for much of the last decade.
One of his greatest contributions was development of NIU’s innovative Leadership Master of Accounting Science Program. Developed in response to feedback from industry experts, the program strives to impart not just accounting knowledge, but business leadership skills.
Young also has helped shape accountancy education on a broader scale through service to a number of state and national organizations.
He is the current president of the American Accounting Association’s Accounting Programs Leadership Group (APLG), serves on the Accounting Accreditation Committee of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and is a member of ICPAS, the AICPA and the Illinois Board of Examiners Education Advisory Task Force.
Young, who also holds the title of Crowe Horwath Professor at NIU, also has published in many of the top journals of his field, including the National Tax Journal, The Journal of the American Taxation Association, Tax Notes and the Journal of Accounting Education.
“Jim Young is an outstanding educator,” said Denise Schoenbachler, dean of the NIU College of Business. “Few individuals are able to make such a difference in the classroom, in a program and through involvement in accounting education worldwide. We are fortunate to have him leading our accountancy program at NIU, and the accounting profession as a whole is better for his efforts here.”