Wharton Accounting Professor Reflects on Teaching EMBA Students

Wharton Accounting Professor Christopher Ittner isn’t trying to teach all of his students to be accountants. In fact, the focus of his Managerial Accounting class – a core course in Wharton’s EMBA program – – is on the decisions that managers make using financial data as opposed to the data itself.   We asked Prof. Ittner, whose research areas include performance measurement and cost management systems, to tell us more about the class and what it’s like to teach exec MBA students.  Here’s what he said:

“I’ve been teaching this course in Wharton’s East Coast EMBA program for 15 years and at Wharton | San Francisco for 10 years. And I’ve taught this same course to the full-time Wharton MBA students for the last 20 years.  Needless to say, I understand the material really well!

“It’s very different from a financial accounting course since we talk more about internal decision making and whether the numbers coming out of the accounting system are relevant or not to your decisions.  EMBA students tend to like it a lot because this is what many of them are doing in their jobs every day.

“I really enjoy teaching execMBA students.  Although it’s the exact same course as I teach to the full-time MBA students, the EMBAs bring a different perspective since they can go back to their jobs and apply what they learned right away.  And the EMBAs often bring issues from their work to class, which we discuss as a group.

“In addition to students bringing their real-world examples into class, I often bring examples from my consulting work as well as my research findings into the classroom.

“While you might think that we talk a lot about the economy, it’s not that big of a theme in the class.  Other than it being a riskier environment for decision making because we live in a more turbulent world, the fundamentals of decision making have remained the same regardless of whether people did it well or not leading up to the crisis.

“What has changed in my class is that the industries used as examples have expanded.  Now, we talk a lot about healthcare as well as other areas like the service sector, the motion picture industry and even nonprofits.   The course applies to more than just big manufacturing companies because everyone needs to use financial data to make managerial decisions.

“Another thing I enjoy about teaching EMBA students is the opportunities we have for interaction with the students.  Not only do our classes run for three hours at a time, but we eat lunch and dinner with them.  In San Francisco, our offices are right next to the EMBA area.  We get to know the students a lot more which frequently leads to ongoing relationships years after they have graduated.

“As for flying out to Wharton | San Francisco to teach this course, this is not something that is required of faculty, but rather something we want to do. The majority of us have been choosing to fly out there to teach since the West Coast program was launched 10 years ago.  We do it because we really like teaching these students.

For more information on classes in Wharton’s EMBA program, please click here.