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Last modified: Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Beth Burchfield Kern

Associate Professor of Accounting
School of Business and Economics
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indiana University South Bend
Appointed to IU faculty, 1995
B.S., University of Virginia, 1980
M.A., University of Virginia, 1981
Ph.D., Indiana University, 1986

"Her gift is creating in her students the ability and interest to become lifelong learners." --Rob Ducoffe, Dean of the School of Business and Economics, IU South Bend

To many, accounting can be an intimidating discipline, with its principles, rules, and numbers. To Beth Kern's students, it's child's play.

Beth Kern

Photo by Chris Meyer

Beth Kern

Print-Quality Photo

Many students in her introductory accounting classes recall the day she brought out the "stacking donut" toys they'd previously seen as toddlers. Students then were tasked with using the toys in small groups to create different ways to keep track of inventory, a common accounting task.

"With this exercise, I want students to go beyond only learning the accounting procedures to truly understand why a company might want to use one method over another," says Kern. "This theme is reinforced throughout the remainder of the semester as we encounter other situations in which firms have choices of accounting methods."

Gwendolyn Mettetal, a professor of education and psychology at IU South Bend, who visited Kern's class to see how the toys were used, observes, "It was an excellent example of hands-on discovery learning."

One of her former students who has followed Kern into teaching, Sharon Busenback, adds, "Professor Kern made learning and mastering accounting fun. Undoubtedly, this is not an easy accomplishment."

Rob Ducoffe, dean of the School of Business and Economics at IU South Bend, puts it succinctly: "Her gift is creating in her students the ability and interest to become lifelong learners."

Kern joined the IU South Bend faculty in 1995, after having taught at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Virginia. She has served on the editorial review boards of the Journal of the American Taxation Association and Advances in Taxation.

She frequently has been recognized for her teaching by both her peers and leaders in the accounting profession. In 2008, she was honored as a "master teacher" by the American Accounting Association at its first Annual Conference on Teaching and Learning. She has been awarded the IU South Bend School of Business and Economics Teaching Excellence Award each year since 1999, and is a three-time winner of the IU Trustees' Teaching Excellence Award.

In 2000, she was inducted into IU's Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching (FACET), and has often impressed her peers in the humanities.

"It is probably not as easy for a tax accountant to demonstrate to non-accountants that one's courses are innovative and creative, as it might be in some disciplines," notes Scott Sernau, FACET's liaison on the South Bend campus, where he is a professor of sociology and director of international programs. "Yet, in Beth's case, there was no doubt that she was deeply committed to good teaching, and she was crafting and leading innovative courses on the very cutting edge of the discipline."

Additional IU recognition of Kern's teaching came with her selection as a charter member and IU South Bend's representative to the Mack Center for Inquiry and Learning. In this role, she helped to draft the founding vision and organizational statement for the center, which has become the primary institute for the scholarship of teaching and learning at IU statewide.

In addition to her students at IU South Bend, Kern has taken an active role in improving educational requirements for all those studying accounting across the country. She has served as president, vice president, and trustee of the American Taxation Association (ATA), and also served on the Education Executive Committee of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). She was a member of a joint ATA/AICPA task force that revised the model tax curriculum for undergraduate education.

"When I came to IUSB, I thought I was a good teacher. My teaching had been recognized with teaching excellence and innovation awards. But deep down, I knew my teaching could be much better," Kern says.

"My students at IUSB have helped me become a much more effective teacher," she adds. "Over time, I realized that if I truly want to help them develop lifelong learning skills, I needed to give them more of an opportunity to learn on their own with my guidance when they ran into brick walls. My students have helped me change my role from classroom controller to more of a learning mentor."