Before he began teaching at the Rotman School of Management in 1973 ― then called the Faculty of Management ― Joel Amernic was an MBA student there himself.
It was an eventful time for Amernic, who decided to go back to school following his undergraduate specialist degree in chemistry and working in a research lab. He got married ("the best decision of my life”), finished his MBA and earned a chartered accountant designation while working at the firm that is now Ernst & Young. When the associate dean at the time needed an instructor for a night course in accounting for the part-time MBA program, they turned to Amernic, who expressed an interest in teaching.
He jumped at the opportunity, teaching the course in the evenings after his day job in the accounting firm. Soon after, he was offered a full-time position as an assistant professor of commerce, and later cross-appointed to the Rotman School.
“I thought, I’ll probably do it for a year or two ― but that was 50 years ago,” says Amernic, a professor of accounting at the Rotman School.
Now completing his fifth decade as a Rotman accounting faculty member, Amernic says it was the endless opportunities to embark on interdisciplinary research and connect with students through teaching that kept his tank full at Rotman.
“When I started at Rotman, I quickly learned that accounting isn’t a narrow field,” he says. “There’s all sorts of accounting information used everywhere, touching almost everything in our daily lives.”
This pushed him to link accounting and other fields in his research, such as the roles of accounting in industrial relations, vocational characteristics of accounting professionals and students, and management control. And in his recent work on leadership ― including the book Decoding CEO-Speak and a forthcoming book on Wells Fargo ― Amernic and his co-author Russell Craig explore the language of leadership through an accountability lens.
“The interdisciplinary nature in which Rotman finds itself at the University of Toronto has been extremely rewarding to be a part of.”
“The interdisciplinary nature in which Rotman finds itself at the University of Toronto has been extremely rewarding to be a part of,” says Amernic.
He also enjoyed bringing research insights into the classroom. During his time at Rotman, he taught undergraduate students in Rotman Commerce and MBA students at the Rotman School of Management, including introductory courses in financial accounting and management accounting, and electives in financial reporting, accounting theory and management control.
“I particularly loved teaching management control because even though it’s taught by accounting faculty, it’s inherently interdisciplinary, dealing with almost all areas of business including leadership, finance, marketing and strategy,” he says.
“It’s fulfilling to see students develop confidence that they can deal with complex business situations and produce useful high-level analyses.”
While the accounting area at Rotman was in the early development stages in the 70s when Amernic joined, Rotman accounting faculty have consistently placed in the top 10 globally for their scholarship in the last decade, according to Brigham Young University’s accounting research rankings.
“The accounting area today is a world-class department,” says Amernic. “My hope is that it continues to grow and evolve as a place that welcomes a broad array of knowledge and perspectives.”
And as Amernic reflects on the biggest piece of advice he has given to students over the decades, he says it has always been this: “Be resilient and be honourable. Regard everyone ― young, old, whatever background or status ― as a fellow human being and respect the views of everyone you meet.”
“I’ve learned a lot from teaching students in the Rotman Commerce and MBA programs,” he says. “We have hundreds of bright young people who have interesting perspectives when they look at an issue, which may be different from my perspective.”
“To this day, I’m learning all the time.”