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Lifelong Learning Motivates Professor Don Pagach

When Don Pagach looks at the accounting profession, he sees rapid change ahead – and he’s working to ensure his students are ready for that changing professional world.

Beyond the teaching and research he does as professor of accounting in the NC State Poole College of Management Department of Accounting, Pagach chairs the Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) Examination Committee for the AICPA (FAR is one of four sections of the CPA Exam). In addition, he and the other three chairs of the exam committees (representing the other three sections of the CPA Exam), serve on the Content Committee, which is responsible for the technical content of the CPA Exam.

Much of the focus in his work with the CPA Exam involves thinking about the things students will need to know in their first two years in the accounting profession, Pagach said. He gains insight into what new accountants are learning and being asked to do in their profession, and brings that back to his classroom to share with his students.

“It’s been really rewarding to be involved with the exam, and knowing what’s happening with the exam – thinking about how students get involved with the profession,” he said. “The CPA Exam is really their first big hurdle as they attempt to get into the profession.”

It’s the culmination of a career that early on seemed meant to be for Pagach. It was during his time as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that his professor and mentor, Jerry Weygandt, first suggested Pagach might enjoy a role in academia as a professor. After receiving his master’s in accounting from Wisconsin, he worked for two years with an accounting firm before pursuing his doctorate at Florida State University. Pagach hit the ground running when he came to NC State in the mid-90s, following two years’ teaching at Louisiana State University, and hasn’t slowed down since.

Beyond Textbook Knowledge

When Pagach enters the classroom each day, it’s about more than just textbook knowledge. He wants to get his students excited about their careers.

“First year accountants are being asked to do more and more things, and need to be not just technically above average, but also to be thinking about analytics, strategy, and the overall firm,” he said.

He talks to his students about seizing on the opportunity of their first accounting job out of school, where they’ll learn not just about the technical side of accounting, but also about how firms and companies operate, about technology, and about working with other people.

“I just think accounting is a great profession and people can get so much out of it – and it’s really a great time to be in the profession,” he said.

He co-authored on a textbook, Wahlen/Jones/Pagach’s Intermediate Accounting. His regular course rotation includes intermediate financial accounting, as well as ACC 510, Advanced Financial, in the Jenkins Master of Accounting (MAC) program, which he terms challenging topics for students. Pagach said authoring the textbook helped him think about how best to communicate and teach those topics to students, as well as to keep up-to-date with changes in financial accounting. It’s knowledge he also brings to his role on the MAC curriculum committee.

Life-long Learning

That life-long learning is a big part of what keeps Pagach excited to come to work every day. He finds great reward in being able to continue to learn and grow in his career.

“Working with students is real enjoyable, as is learning new things every day,” he said. “It seems like every day I’m learning something new about how companies operate or about financial reporting – the lifelong learning aspect of the job is really nice.”

In the early 2000’s Pagach began doing research on Enterprise Risk Management (ERM), which remains his research focus today. He serves as the director of research for the ERM Initiative in the Poole College of Management. He leads ongoing research related to ERM, conducts his own research projects, and works closely with visiting doctoral students who come to NC State to partner on ERM-related research.

In addition to his research, Pagach developed a special interest in online teaching more than a decade ago, and today serves as the faculty lead for the college’s online MBA program.

“It’s been really rewarding in teaching and being involved in the evolution of teaching,” he said of the online program.