Professor Reed Smith: A semester in Rome

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It’s said: Mathematics is a universal language, used to transcend boundaries. The same may be true for accounting, the language of business.

While accounting practices can differ from country to country (and company to company), the basic principles remain the same.

J. Reed Smith, professor of accounting and faculty chair of the Graduate Accounting Programs, spent the spring semester on sabbatical. Rather than teaching here in Indianapolis, he taught an international accounting class at LUISS (The University of Italy for the Social Sciences) as a Fulbright – LUISS Research Lecturer.

“A sabbatical does a couple things,” said Smith as he worked in his office, preparing for the upcoming semester. “It energizes you and gives you new ideas. I would like to do a study exchange, in which Italian students come over here and take classes, and I take a group of Americans over here. We could study a different type of financial reporting, called integrated reporting, that we don’t typically look at in the U.S. It’s a much more holistic approach to financial statements.”

Smith says the experience in Rome gives him a deeper understanding and better insight into the educational system and the business climate in Italy – which translates to his teaching at home.

“This experience impacts current students because I now have a broader perspective of the role of accounting in other economies. I presented at and attended research seminars in Rome. I learned how the educational system there differs from ours in the U.S. and, in particular, at Kelley. I learned about some cutting-edge business and accounting principles they use that are different from ours,” said Smith.

Smith also learned more about international accounting to teach the 120 students in the course (both in Rome and following along on the web). He said it’s all about sharing cultures.

“Everything is in flux with international accounting standards. And when we teach international accounting in the U.S., we teach from the American point of view, but that doesn’t work if you’re in Italy. I had to change my perspective.

“I thought—it’s something else I can learn,” he explained. . “That’s the beauty of teaching. You learn something new every time you teach because you have to learn it really well. I hadn’t done anything like that in a long time.

“I made it a point to form personal connections with my students in Rome. My approach to teaching was very different for them. They had not had this type of experience before. They were very prepared and studied very hard, but they were used to reciting material rather than understanding and using the tools. I had to think of new ways to reach these students, and that makes me a better teacher.

I’m proud to be a Kelley. I feel like my job was to be an ambassador—to let everybody know why this is such an incredible place.

J. Reed Smith, professor of accounting and faculty chair of Graduate Accounting Programs

“I wanted them to see how things are done here—and to represent Kelley Indianapolis. At Kelley, we are a family, and I wanted the students there to feel that, if only for one class. I think I was pretty successful with that. The Kelley School is a special place.”