The Business of Teaching

Nicole Thibodeau drove up in her Mini-Cooper, but she admits she’d rather be riding her Harley Davidson Sportster.

“If I have to be motorized, I want to be on a motorcycle,” said the new associate professor in Pacific University’s College of Business.

When she’s not in the classroom, you’ll find Thibodeau outside, hiking, kayaking, biking.

“Basically,” she said, “my basement is an outdoor gear store.”

Though she says exercise makes her mind work, she’s also more philosophical about her love of the outdoors: Being aware of and subject to the environment is what makes life meaningful, she said.

You will find that same holistic perspective in her classes.

Thibodeau came to Pacific this year to help build the university’s new master of business administration, or MBA, program. Offered on alternating weekends, the program is geared toward professionals who want to advance their careers while continuing to work.

But, Thibodeau said, it’s also a pathway for undergraduate students to continue their studies.

“The idea is that it’s a continuum that serves the whole community,” she said.

That’s why she’s also teaching undergraduate courses this fall.

In a recent accounting class, she talked to students about revenue recognition, “when a business can say it has earned income.”

But the discussion went well beyond the specific processes of accounting.

“I brought in the rules. Why are there rules? The stock market crash, the SEC, how Enron did corrupt things and why, how that drives the rules,” she said. “Accounting isn’t just numbers.”

It’s a language, she said — one in which she wants her students to be fluent.

Thibodeau came to accounting herself as a matter of practicality.

“It was 1980, the interest rate was 20 percent, jobs were low,” she said. She figured a degree in accounting would always offer a job.

Originally from Canada’s East Coast, she did her undergraduate work at Laval University in Quebec, where she became a public accountant and also graded national professional certification exams. She earned a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh — her first stint in the United States — then spent time teaching at Laval. In 2005, she moved to California, as a member of the faculty at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Graduate School of Business and Public Policy, and in 2008, she accepted a position on the faculty at Willamette University.

She still teaches at Willamette, as well as at Pacific. She also continues to work as a business consultant.

“The move here was not a move away from anything,” she said. “I’ve come full circle.”

At Pacific, she’s excited to have the chance to get to know students as undergraduates who may move into the College of Business’s graduate programs and also to help build the profile and community awareness of the graduate programs.

She wants to give students “a well-rounded experience that gears them for the future,” she said.

“To give them motivation and tools to adapt in today’s world, business language to speak and think critically. Successful individuals will have these skills.”

Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014