This blog was written by a Cross Continent MBA student prior to the program’s merger with the Global Executive MBA program. 

Thanks to the reality TV show we know how the script goes. Everyone gathers as the project is kicked off, some tears are shed, what’s known is destroyed, more tears are shed. Work is done around the clock. Then everyone goes away and returns only to see the miraculous and impressive finished product. But this isn’t a house we’re talking about. This is “Extreme Accounting Makeover: Katherine Schipper Edition.”

Duke’s Cross Continent MBA classes are always extraordinarily diverse groups. My Class of 2017 represents 19 countries and many different professions, most of which are without an accounting or pure financial background. But it’s an accrual world out there, and understanding accounting practices is nonetheless a vital part of an MBA.

Tasked to get us into ‘ship shape’ was Professor Katherine Schipper, Thomas F. Keller professor and first female member of the Accounting Hall of Fame. Unlike the male-models-turned-carpenters on the TV editions, she actually has the qualifications to complete an Extreme Makeover and talent to ensure that we all make it to the finish line no matter our prior experience.

Like any makeover, the secret to getting ahead is getting started, and your journey begins even before Financial Accounting classes start, at the moment you get your Term 1 pre-assignments. ‘Credit’ those usual drinks with friends since any ‘debit’ you can make on studying now is advantageous. Completing the assignments before the class residency begins will allow you to get the most out of the in-person sessions.

Part of what makes Professor Shipper so effective in making us over into “passable readers of financial statements” is the thought she puts into her class sessions and coursework. Unlike reality TV, there is nothing left on the cutting room floor, no outtakes or reshoots. Classes are hours of deep learning in which all the reading and cases are used in a way that’s almost musical in its composition. Dividing her questions throughout the room, she keeps the cold calls balanced like a T-Account and the class on the edge of their seats.

Throughout the residency portion of the class you learn humility from the cold calls and advanced concepts discussed. This humility is important when leaning on the accounting TA’s review sessions (which are a must!) and sitting for the midterm at the end of residency. In accounting class, everyone counts, and part of the makeover is the comradery Professor Schipper’s curriculum builds with the class.

After departing Durham and starting on the distance portion of the curriculum, we were already acting as a class, working on team projects and reaching out to each other for questions we may have. That is the ultimate final reward of the Extreme Accounting Makeover—when the big reveal takes place at the end, we are all standing together, as passable readers of financial statements, but just as importantly, as one.