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Teaching Accountants to Think Like Data Scientists

UL Online -- Thu, 01/23/2020 - 2:15pm

Dr. Shawn Konecni grew up in California. Migrating to Louisiana to attend his father’s alma mater was an “adjustment” — one that permanently reset Konecni’s compass.

“My family is in Lafayette; I like the people and the culture,” Dr. Konecni says. “Even though I’m not originally from here, I do consider Lafayette my home so I look for opportunities to stay here, and right now teaching is it.”

After earning a bachelor of science in microbiology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Dr. Konecni earned a Master of Business Administration in management information systems and a Master of Science in Computer Science before earning a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and biotechnology.Dr. Shawn Konecni teaches students to analyze and visualize data to find and report business trends.

Throughout these varied programs, Dr. Konecni’s focus remained on how to understand and use the growing amount of data available in every sector and industry.

“When I first got into data analysis, it was to make an impact on the research side. You have all this data just sitting there that could possibly allow you to make a breakthrough and that’s exciting,” he says. “I was working on all kinds of projects from analyzing health and pharmaceutical data, doing data mining and visualization, to creating data visualization tools  for businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits.”

Dr. Konecni now imparts his data analysis expertise to UL Lafayette students across three programs in two colleges: the Master of Science in Informatics in the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences and both the Master of Business Administration online and the online Master of Science in Accounting in the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration.

“We’re in a situation now where because of advances in technology and the explosion of information, everything is now data-driven. If you want a competitive advantage in anything, you need to incorporate in your model as much information as you can get,” he says.

“Everywhere you go, data is going to propel business and help you achieve your goals.”

Accountants and auditors are dealing with all sorts of data, from financial records and statements to audit data. They need to know how to spot trends and patterns in the data, improve the quality of their audits, and be able to communicate their findings to stakeholders.

“They have to have that data analytics mindset — just like the rest of business,” Dr. Konecni says. “We’re not trying to make them data scientists, but they need to think like data scientists. They need to be able to use the tools and techniques of data scientists to support their job.”

In order to achieve that, Dr. Konecni incorporates hands-on experiences using various data mining, analysis, and visualization software into his Accounting Information Technology course, ACCT 518. The course, he says, equips working professionals to choose the right tool when they encounter problems outside of the course.

“I wanted to incorporate tools that will be used by big businesses and firms; things that they can take out of the course and bring to their jobs and say, ‘I know how to use this; I know how to apply this to this problem,’” Dr. Konecni says.

Students will have the opportunity to explore Tableau, CaseWare IDEA, Microsoft Office, and various open-source tools like Weka.

Dr. Konecni says he enjoys trying new things and testing new tools, including applications for his online classroom. In addition to the data analysis software he’ll introduce to students, Dr. Konecni is exploring technology to foster interaction among students online.

“I definitely make use of discussion boards to have students interact with one another,” he says. “There are some audio/visual interaction when possible so people can discuss how they can apply the tools and techniques into their jobs.”

Helping students understand new, complex concepts while exploring data analysis and visualization in a number of applications is, “the best job I’ve ever had,” says Dr. Konecni.

“I’m lucky to be teaching in these different degree programs that constantly evolve; it’s constantly pushing to the next level,” he says. “I love that part of it.”

Use data to guide and deliver results. Request information today about UL Lafayette’s online Master of Science in Accounting. Earn your degree in as little as a year entirely online.