Paul Juras: Dedicated to LearningBy
Paul Juras has spent the last 30 years as an educator preparing students for successful futures as accounting and finance professionals. He brings this commitment to teaching to his new role as Chair of the IMA® Global Board of Directors, becoming the first academic member to hold this position since Brian McGuire nearly 10 years ago.
Paul has served IMA in various ways since becoming a member in 1983, including, perhaps most notably, as Chair of the ICMA® (Institute of Certified Management Accountants) Board of Regents—making him the ninth IMA Chair to hold this double honor. Paul’s passion for education, his extensive knowledge of the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification, and his love for management accounting research make him the Chair for this moment—a time of both uncertainty and guarded optimism.
FIRST-GENERATION COLLEGE STUDENT
Paul was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and grew up in nearby Hyde Park, known most for being the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was the middle of three brothers and enjoyed a close-knit family. “My grandfather arrived at Ellis Island from Poland, and my mother was an only child. We didn’t have many relatives in the United States, only about a dozen or so, but we all lived near each other and spent a lot of time together.” Paul’s mother was an office manager, and his dad worked at a printing plant in town.
As a student at Hyde Park’s FDR High School, Paul was interested in psychology, but he also took an elective in accounting and found that he liked it. Assuming that “studying psychology is probably not going to pay the bills,” he decided to attend Pace University’s Lubin School of Business in Pleasantville, N.Y. He was accepted into a prestigious joint BBA/MBA program, which he completed in four years. Even before he became a professional educator, Paul never took attending college for granted. He was the first person in his family to earn a four-year degree.
The management accounting bug bit Paul early. “I just found it more interesting than all the financial accounting stuff,” he explains. He recalls taking upper-level electives on the subject as a sophomore, earlier than most college students usually do, and he enjoyed how it relied on using common sense to support decision makers more than a rules-based approach. Despite that interest in management accounting, however, it didn’t enter his post-graduation job search plans.
“At the time, the early 1980s, the curriculum at Pace was heavily focused on the CPA [Certified Public Accountant] exam and public accounting, so it was easy to be enticed by the [then] Big Eight,” he recalls. He admits that he didn’t even consider jobs outside of public accounting, and, shortly after graduating college in 1983, he landed his first professional post at Deloitte Haskins & Sells in Stamford, Conn., as a staff auditor.
It wasn’t a great fit. “I didn’t like it. The kind of work I was doing wasn’t fulfilling,” he says. Not one to just give up, he moved to a smaller CPA firm near his hometown to see if the Big Eight was the problem. It wasn’t.
Fortunately, Paul heard of an opportunity from a family friend that sent his career into a new direction.
A CMA BECOMES AN ACADEMIC
Paul took and passed the Uniform CPA exam shortly after earning his MBA. He then began studying for another exam, this one relatively new: the CMA. This was in the early 1980s, and the CMA had only been around for about a decade. He had heard of it from a finance professor in college and had been intrigued.
Unlike his experience with the CPA, which he passed on the first try, it took Paul multiple times to pass the CMA. “It was an incredibly difficult, five-part test and required such a wide range of knowledge,” he says. “At that time, the exam covered topics like economics, information technology, quantitative analysis—not only were the subject areas broad, but the depth of coverage for each topic was extensive as well.” He eventually passed the exam in 1985 and then became a CMA in 1986 after completing his two years of work experience.
Soon after Paul passed the exam, a family friend who belonged to the faculty of nearby Dutchess County (N.Y.) Community College told him about an opening to teach a college accounting course. It was a one-year assignment to fill in for an instructor going out on medical leave, and Paul gave it a try.
“I found I really liked teaching,” he says. “It awakened something in me that I had discovered in high school when our teacher gave us the opportunity to teach a class or two. In college, I was part of an accounting honor society and did some peer tutoring, which I also enjoyed. It brought it all back to me—the joy I felt in explaining ideas and sharing knowledge with others.”
That assignment led Paul to explore other adjunct opportunities, and he eventually secured a post at the State University of New York New Paltz, which even offered him a permanent position. But the limitations to a long-term career as an academic soon became obvious. “I realized that to pursue a tenure-track position at a college, I needed a Ph.D. There was really no way around it.”
That led Paul to relocate to central New York, where he spent five years at Syracuse University earning his doctorate. Other changes ensued as well. He was single when he moved to Syracuse. When he graduated, he was married and the father of a 1-year-old son.
Paul’s doctoral studies were focused on several areas that still interest him. His dissertation topic, “Analysis of Relative Efficiency Measures of Medical Nursing Units for Managerial Diagnosis and Control,” enabled him to combine his interest in healthcare with his interest in operations. He notes, “That interest in operations has never gone away.… Even these days, I often tell my students I earned a Ph.D. in accounting, yet my dissertation doesn’t have a single dollar sign in it.”
A DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR
A newly minted Ph.D., Paul was offered a post in the accounting department of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. The decision to move proved an easy one. “My wife had lived in and gone to school in North Carolina. Plus, the weather is a whole lot better in Winston-Salem than in Syracuse!”
Paul spent 20 years at Wake Forest, teaching financial accounting, management accounting, and information systems to both undergraduate and graduate students. “I was very happy there,” Paul notes. His interest grew in the area of analytics, a newer field at the time that has since become very popular. “We didn’t have all the visualization tools we have now—basically, the relatively new tool called Excel was the program of choice—but the concepts were very much the same: making sure you’re working with ‘clean data,’ looking for patterns.”
During the second half of his time at Wake Forest, however, Paul, now a tenured professor, began to notice a shift. While the school had always been focused more in preparing students for careers in public accounting, he found that management accounting was slowly being perceived as less valued. He attributes this in part to the fact that management accounting was becoming less significant on the CPA exam. Paul realized that, “If management accounting is what I want to focus on, then maybe I need to find another place where I can do that.”
He ended up “finding” Babson College, located just outside of Boston, Mass. Babson offered him a position with great flexibility—it would let him work remotely. By that time, Paul had divorced and gotten remarried, and he wanted to remain in North Carolina, which he had by then considered home.
He’s been at Babson since 2011, serving as the Vander Wolk Professor of Management Accounting and Operational Performance. The school is consistently ranked as having the top graduate and undergraduate programs for entrepreneurship, and the students are savvy and self-motivated. He teaches management accounting and strategic cost management courses in both the MBA and undergraduate programs. It’s an arrangement that allows both virtual and in-classroom learning. Most years, Paul spends about 20 weeks at Babson—flying up to Massachusetts on Sunday and then flying back to North Carolina on Thursday or Friday.
As an educator, Paul has published extensively and has been recognized with numerous awards, including IMA’s highest academic honor, the R. Lee Brummet Award for Distinguished Accounting Educators, in 2015. He’s also had the ear of thousands of students. And, of course, he’s told them about IMA.
RESEARCH TO REGENT TO BOARD CHAIR
Paul joined IMA in 1983 at the suggestion of Thomas Taylor, the dean of the School of Business and Accountancy at Wake Forest. Taylor encouraged Paul to attend meetings of the local IMA chapter in Winston-Salem, and, before long, Paul had “jumped in” to chapter leadership. He served on the chapter’s board, as VP of education, and then as president.
In the early 1990s, Paul also extended his IMA volunteer service by becoming a national director and then joining the Management Accounting Committee, which in 1994 merged with the Foundation for Applied Research (FAR). Paul stepped away from volunteer service for a few years in the early 2000s to focus on other priorities, but he resumed his involvement with FAR in 2006 at the encouragement of fellow academic Sandy Richtermeyer (who would later serve as 2010-2011 IMA Chair herself).
Paul became chair of FAR in 2008 and spent three years in that role (FAR changed its name to the IMA Research Foundation in 2011). Around that time, he also helped launch the IMA Educational Case Journal (IECJ®), where he served as associate editor for 10 years. In 2012, he became a member of the IMA Global Board of Directors, where he served on the Member Relations Committee (2012-2014) and Planning and Development Committee (2017-2020), and as chair of the Performance Oversight and Audit Committee (2014-2015).
Paul is incredibly proud of the support that the IMA Research Foundation has given to management accounting research over the years: “Through its Research Foundation, IMA provides more financial support for management accounting research than any other association I know of—to date, it’s awarded more than $1 million in research grants to academics and doctoral students.”
After spending years as chair of the IMA Research Foundation, an IECJ editor, and a member of the IMA Global Board of Directors, Paul came to another “What’s next?” moment. “I’d been serving on the Global Board and in research and thought, ‘OK, where else can I add value?’”
The answer was the ICMA Board of Regents, for which Paul served as chair from 2017 to 2019. During his tenure, Paul helped to oversee the most recent job analysis survey, which sought to ensure that the CMA exam was assessing those skills that are currently needed or will be needed in the future. The result was a redesigned, two-part CMA exam, launched in January 2020, that more closely aligns with what hiring managers are looking for and includes a new section on technology and analytics. “It’s all about making sure the exam stays relevant,” he explains.
SUPPORTING THE PIPELINE
As an academic member, Paul brings his own set of experiences and priorities to his role as IMA Chair.
Asked about the advantages of having a Chair who’s an academic, he says, “The benefit of being an academic is that we’re agnostic to industry sector—meaning we have knowledge across many different industries and sectors because we typically have to prepare students to succeed in many different types of environments.”
Another benefit: Academics truly are committed to lifelong learning. And for Paul, that just doesn’t apply to his professional life. He’s been a SCUBA diver for more than 30 years, not content to stop at being certified but also eventually earning his Diver Master certification. Same with yoga and Pilates: He started as just a practitioner but later became a certified instructor in both.
Considering his priorities for his term as Chair, Paul is especially focused on keeping engaged with the academic community, including strengthening alliances with the American Accounting Association (AAA) and other organizations. He wants to make sure academics know about all the resources that IMA makes available to them, such as discounted rates and fees, an opportunity to take the CMA exam for free, grant and scholarship programs for research, and more, such as the IMA Higher Education Endorsement Program for colleges and universities.
This same emphasis applies to students. Notes Paul, “Students are the pipeline to the future—the leaders of tomorrow. So, it’s very important to let them know how IMA can help them on their journey through the CMA scholarship program, IMA Accounting Honor Society, leadership and educational opportunities, and other resources.” The goal for both these member groups: to let them know that IMA is here to support and connect them.
That sentiment has certainly been apparent during the past few months, as IMA and the entire world have been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Paul has been impressed by the way IMA has stuck to its core values, putting the health and safety of members and staff first. He also strongly supports the way IMA has offered a free 90-day trial to nonmembers and free educational resources in this time of stay-at-home mandates. “These resources can help people prepare for what the future will look like—even though we don’t exactly know what that will be.”
The pandemic also has been impacting one of the things Paul had most looked forward to during his time as Chair: travel. He had a memorable visit to India in 2019 as Chair-Elect and is hoping that one day soon, he will be able to travel to China and elsewhere to “interact with members all over the world.”
Remaining agile in the face of the unfolding uncertainty is critical. Virtual events, like the Annual Meeting of Members that was held in June, are just one example of how the organization, and even the profession, may change in the future. “In the end, it’s about being resilient and doing things differently, if necessary,” Paul says.
As a former Board of Regents chair as well as an experienced academic, Paul is hopeful that the next year will enable IMA to forge new relationships across geographic regions and member groups. And given the evolving state of the world economy as well as the unprecedented changes reshaping the profession, he expects that IMA and the CMA will continue to grow in influence and relevance in 2020-2021 and beyond.
Paul’s Advice for Teaching (and Learning) in a New Environment
In the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, this past spring has brought significant changes to the way college educators teach and college students learn. The IT support center at Babson College, where Paul teaches, has developed a website titled “Be Ready for Anything,” offering tutorials on technology and best practices on delivery and even guidance on hardware selection.
The name of the site initially caught Paul’s eye. “When I first saw it, I thought, ‘Yeah, right, who are you kidding?’ But then as I thought about it more, I realized that while it may seem to be a desirable yet daunting goal, I started to look behind the goal and came up with some thoughts as to how it can be operationalized.” Here are nine recommendations from Paul:
- Be resilient. The ability to adapt is something we try to instill in students as we seek to prepare them for successful careers that will include jobs that don’t even exist right now. As faculty, we can model the virtue of resilience.
- Be prepared. Take the time to practice with tools that you might have used infrequently or not been exposed to at all. For example, while Webex might be the tool of choice for group interaction, maybe a tool like Zoom will have better connectivity during times of high demand for Webex bandwidth or serve as a contingency if Webex goes down.
- Be flexible. We don’t know what obstacles we or our students might face. Maybe someone’s technology freezes up or a student’s internet bandwidth is insufficient because everyone in their household is forced to stay in place. Many things can happen, so don’t be too rigid. One idea I came across is to offer each student a “free pass” on one item during the course. Maybe an assignment is late or a student couldn’t get on a required Webex meeting—no penalty, no problem, use that one “free pass.”
- Be disciplined and structured. This might seem to contradict “Be flexible,” but I’m talking about at a personal level. Get up each morning and get ready just like you would if you were going to campus to teach. Keep scheduled office hours; they’re now simply done virtually instead of face to face. Similarly, have a time when you “go home,” just as if you were leaving campus for the day.
- Build a community of peer support.Find a technology buddy to experiment with and to share stories of success and difficulties. Maybe it’s a departmental-level website that serves as a repository of ideas; you can also set up a course in a learning management system (at Babson, we use Canvas) that serves as a central point of contact to share ideas and resources.
- Bring your passion. This is a time of uncertainty for everyone, so displays of confidence and passion for what you’re teaching can be a positive influence in the lives of students.
- Use multiple paths of engagement. Make use of email and tools like Webex, but don’t underestimate the impact of using social media channels that students use in their daily lives, such as WhatsApp, Instagram, or Snapchat (check out bit.ly/304ViYl to learn how to use Snapchat as a classroom tool).
- Communication is key. Related to engagement tools, it’s probably better to overcommunicate than under-communicate during this time. There is fear and uncertainty, sure, but students (and maybe even we ourselves) might be feeling a sense of isolation. The communication with fellow students and faculty may be the bulk of any social interaction many of us will have during these trying times, and so frequent communication can help us feel less isolated, that we aren’t alone, and that we matter.
- Keep a positive attitude and a sense of humor.We’ll get through this, and let your students see that you believe that. The sense of humor part, finding points of laughter and joy during these trying times, can go a long way toward making this journey more bearable.
A Prolific Author
Paul has authored or coauthored more than 50 articles, many of which have appeared in Strategic Finance over the years, such as:
Paul Juras and Lauren Johnson, “The Path to Industry 4.0 Implementation,” June 2020, bit.ly/2XAW1yN.
Weerapat (Go) Attachot, William Coyle, Paul Juras, and Brigitte Muehlmann, “Copilots with Entrepreneurs,” August 2018, bit.ly/3748TAN.
Thomas L. Albright, Chad A. Gerber, and Paul Juras, “How Naval Aviation Uses the Balanced Scorecard,” October 2014, bit.ly/3eURE7C.
Thomas G. Canace and Paul Juras, “CFO: From Analyst to Catalyst,” February 2014, bit.ly/2BQlxEK.
Robert G. Eshelman, Paul Juras, and Thomas C. Taylor, “When Small Companies Implement Big Systems,” February 2001, bit.ly/2UcUvRs.
Paul also has coauthored six case studies used for IMA’s student case competition, starting with the 1994 case competition (Paul Juras and Paul Dierks, “Blue Ridge Manufacturing,” Management Accounting, December 1993) to as recent as the 2016 competition (Thomas Albright, Bryan Hudgens, Paul Juras, and Bill Petty, “Jenny’s Cycle Components—Managing a Lean Supply Chain,” Strategic Finance, August 2015, bit.ly/2Y5135J).
In addition, he is the coauthor of a book, Cost Management: A Strategic Emphasis, which is on the suggested reading list for the CMA exam. He’s now working on the ninth edition with coauthors Ed Blocher and Steven Smith.