Learn how award-winning educator Dr. Cindy Greenman created a forensic accounting program with a lot of hands-on learning—and impressive outcomes.
Associate Professor of Accounting, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona
PhD in Accounting, MBA, Certified Fraud Examiner
Dr. Cindy Greenman was working at an accounting firm when she attended a fraud-examination seminar that would change the trajectory of her life. “The instructor said, ‘If you think you might be interested in pursuing a career in fraud examination, get your concealed weapons permit and never start your own car,’” says Greenman with a laugh. “He was half joking, and some students were scared off by that. But what he said was exciting to me, and I decided that was what I wanted to do for my career.”
After 15 years in the accounting field, Greenman brought her learnings to the classroom, eventually landing at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2011 as the school’s first full-time accounting instructor. By 2016, she had created a new course in forensic accounting, took students to Europe to study international fraud, and created an entire undergraduate program on the subject—one of the only ones currently offered in the nation. “This is a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination,” she says. “It’s rare. Most programs like this are master’s level.” Perhaps even more impressive than its rarity is its results: Its majors have a 100% job placement rate within 30 days of graduation.
For her efforts, Greenman was named the 2019 Educator of the Year by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the world’s largest anti-fraud organization. While she says she was excited to be nominated (and surprised to have won), this humble professor takes even greater pride in the accomplishments of her students: “I have graduates working for three-letter agencies, as compliance officers at major corporations, as bank auditors, and in CPA firms,” she says.
Course Hero caught up with this busy professor between European excursions to learn how and why she started her forensic accounting program, what it takes to manage a student travel program, and where she finds inspiration.
“Nobody grows up saying, ‘I want to be an accountant.’ That’s not a thing. But by showing students the different aspects of accounting [through hands-on, experiential learning], there might be some that are boring, but there are some that are exciting and fun.”— Cindy Greenman, PhD
Description: The course is an in-depth study of international accounting and auditing focusing on the various reporting and auditing standards of the region. Objectives of this course are to provide the students with a specialized focus within the chosen region, on the application of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and the International Auditing Standards (IAS), issues faced by multinational companies and international corporate governance.
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An authentic talk with fraud expert Dr. Cindy Greenman
Dr. Cindy Greenman spent 15 years in managerial and public accounting before she began teaching at Embry-Riddle in 2011. Here, this determined forensic-accountant-turned-forensic-educator shares her insights into creating programs and courses that meet the demands of the school, the students, and the workplace.
Course Hero: What inspired your shift from accounting to academia?
Cindy Greenman, PhD: Accounting was my career path because I wanted a steady job. My dad worked at a factory in northern Michigan, and it was dependent on the volatile auto industry. I didn’t want a job that was that insecure.
My interest in teaching began when I needed some extra income. After I finished my master’s degree, I started teaching at a local community college and absolutely fell in love with being an educator. I then pursued my PhD so I could begin teaching full-time.
When did the idea of creating a new program enter the picture?
When I started at Embry-Riddle, my initial responsibilities included teaching one section each of financial accounting, managerial accounting, business ethics, and business computer applications. But, right from the start, I was encouraged to develop other accounting courses that interested me. So I started the forensic accounting course the next year. It was very popular. Based on that popularity, I got to develop the entire forensics accounting program.
When I started this program three years ago, I had two students. Now there are 37 students in the program.
One of the unique aspects of your program is its 100% placement rate within 30 days of graduation. To what do you attribute that success?
Part of it is that my students get so much hands-on work experience, and I emphasize internships with organizations like Boeing and the FBI. Another part is that accounting is stable. So they can always get accounting jobs after graduation, such as [being a] corporate accountant. Yet another aspect is that the students are excited about this particular program and have a lot of passion for what they do, and that makes a difference when you’re interviewing for jobs.
What are the distinctive aspects of your forensic accounting program?
Hands-on experiential learning is what makes this program truly stand out. That’s our specialty. There are three elements of our experiential learning:
One is the Strategic Management and Consulting course (BA 437). This is a pure business-consulting class, where students do real-life consulting for companies during the entire semester. We’ve gotten such rave reviews that we have a waiting list of companies who want to work with us. This includes [American] companies like Costco, as well as international companies in Norway and Sweden. Students work in teams, and if the scope of the project is too big for one semester, we continue with the next class of students who pick up and run with what the previous class has done.
The second is Investigative Methodology and Forensic Science (SIS 220). This is a forensic science class, where the teacher develops crime scenes and the students have to do footprint casts, fingerprints, and blood spatter and hair analyses. That’s part of the investigative component. Students love this class since it’s like what they see on TV crime shows.
The third is Regional Studies in Accounting and Auditing (ACC 313). This course is unique because I personally take students out of the classroom setting. Mostly during an international class, you learn the difference between US reporting requirements and those of other countries. I still present all that information, but during the class, which is held every other spring, I offer a 12- to 14-day cruise. I’ve led cruises to the Mediterranean (visiting Rome, Greece, and Spain) and the Baltic Sea (visiting Denmark, Sweden, and Russia), and I am currently planning one for the British Isles (visiting England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Belgium, Norway, and the Netherlands) for Spring 2020. During the trip, my students get to hear from international professors, meet international students, and see up close all the international material that they’ve been studying in a classroom.
What are your tips for other educators who might want to develop a study-abroad experience like this?
First, get ready to do a lot of work. It’s a ton. That’s why I only do it every other year. I have to contact the international universities and set up lectures, call cruise ships and tour companies to get the best deals I can, etc. If you’re wondering about costs, I spend a lot of time getting a very discounted rate for the students. I’ve gotten good at negotiation.
Second, keep your class small. Don’t have more than 16 students. In my International Accounting class, I try to make sure to have an equal number of men and women, because of logistics with the cruise. You can’t have men and women sharing cruise cabins.
What can you tell us about the future of the program?
The university is now marketing the program heavily, and I am getting more interest from employers. I have recruiters contacting me. So all signs point to this program thriving. Fraud isn’t going anywhere. Unfortunately, in this global world and with the Internet, people are just finding new ways to do it. Cyber stealing makes it so much easier and more anonymous.
Final question: Do you ever watch TV shows or movies about fraud to get ideas for your classes?
I do! American Greed, a reality show with different fraud stories, is my favorite TV show. And The Accountant with Ben Affleck is my favorite movie.