The role of a chartered professional accountant (CPA) is different today than it was 20 years ago, and likewise, will evolve again over the next 20 years and beyond. That fact is not lost on Sonya von Heyking (CPA, CA, CIA, BMgt '03 Great Distinction), faculty member with the University of Lethbridge’s Dhillon School of Business and driving force behind the new Insight Series, presented by MNP and the CPA Education Foundation.

A six micro-course seminar program designed to enhance what von Heyking calls “human skills”, the Insight Series is squarely focused on the changing nature of the business world and its added emphasis on critical thinking, creativity, adaptability and collaboration.

“This was born out of us looking at the CPA profession in Canada evolving its competency map for the future of accounting,” says von Heyking, who engaged subject matter experts and professionals from a variety of disciplines to build the courses. “If artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation are going to take over the more mechanical and technical parts of the job, what is a future ready, CPA? What does a CPA of 2025, 2030, 2035 need to exemplify?”

What is the Dhillon School of Business Insight Series?

The series for Dhillon School of Business accounting students is a set of six seminar classes that address skills above and beyond the technical requirements to be a professional accountant and tap into the competencies of critical thinking, curiosity, creativity, communication and emotional intelligence in a professional context.

The proposed seminar courses include: Curiosity and Creativity (individual and organizational resilience is reinforced when we encourage curiosity and creativity in individuals and among teams); Disruption or Distraction (knowing which distractions require our attention, and how to leverage them for organizational benefit, will be the key to survival for businesses of the future); Problem Identification and Definition (problem discovery requires a questioning mindset, the ability to synthesize information, and a well-designed approach); Attitudes, Ethics and Stewardship (Stewardship, ethics and a governance mindset are critical to decision-making amidst complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty); Inquiry Based Insights (Applying an inquiry based approach to critical thinking can result in better decision-making, transform analysis into insight, and differentiate between success and luck); Critical Thinking in Industry (Leveraging our partners' expertise in sectors such as Agriculture, Indigenous Nations, Dealerships, and Food and Beverage Processing, participants will explore deductive and inductive reasoning, fallacies of adequacy and relevance, and argument assessment techniques as they study organizational missteps and successes).

“What I'm hoping is that we give students an opportunity to build personal and professional habits that, when faced with a problem, allow them to pause and reflect more, and not see it as simply black and white,” says von Heyking. “We would like to provide them with a toolkit to support their nascent professionalism particularly in terms of communication, personal efficacy, and problem-solving skills. If they can have that moment, in academics or work, where they sit back and think about mapping out all the possible outcomes of a situation and think through the best way to move forward, then I think we’ve given them a valuable skill.”

The micro-course delivery method for each seminar is completed over four weeks. Each course opens with an in-person three-hour class to introduce the material and concepts of the course, followed by a three-week self-study period featuring online self-directed modules. Students will work at their own pace but still connect with other members of their cohort through course activities. The class will then gather again for a concluding three-hour session.

Donor Involvement

MNP and the CPA Education Foundation have come together to support the establishment of the Insight Series, lending the perspective and support of industry professionals and experts.

“In speaking with the MNP leadership team as we were beginning to put this together, we understood the value they placed on employees who are client centred, good communicators, attentive listeners and clear thinkers,” says von Heyking. “Likewise, the CPA Education Foundation is committed to strengthening the future of the accounting profession through innovative and impactful education. That played a major role in the development of the courses.”


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