Most of the time you wouldn’t expect a managerial accounting class to include Nilla Wafers, icing, peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies, and Snapchat, but incoming Robins School of Business faculty member Ashley Austin found a way.

“A lot of us aren’t very familiar with manufacturing and the exact process that goes into it,” Austin said, “so I decided to turn the classroom into a factory, and make desserts because that would be fun and I thought they’d like it.”

The approach was simple, split students up into teams that make up “Austin Dessert Company”: inventory, assembly, quality control, security, custodial, marketing, and distribution. Then, start making cookie sandwiches.

“It’s tough to picture a factory, because not many students have been inside a factory and been around that,” Austin said. “So I think it helped them picture it better, and helped it come alive for them.”

There were two recipes: “Cookie Dreams,” made of chocolate chip cookies and icing, and “PB&B Bites,” made with Nilla Wafers, bananas, and peanut butter. Students put them together, as well as maintained the factory environment with custodial workers, and marketing managers taking photos of the products and posting them on social media outlets like Snapchat.

“The objective of this activity was to exemplify how direct materials for each good, direct labor hours for each job, and the calculated manufacturing overhead for each good were to come together to calculate a cost per unit of a good,” said Becca Channen, ’19. “This activity allowed us to be hands on and see how to price a good using all of the relevant costs in this manufacturing process. While sitting through a lecture or reading a textbook to understand this process may get the job done, this activity had us engaged and really helped us grasp this concept of managing a manufacturing process...and we had a delicious snack at the end too!”

“I think it makes class more interesting in general,” Austin said. “The students are active, they’re standing up, and especially as early in the semester, they got to interact with each other more, and kind of get to know each other early on.”

The course covers basic theory, concepts, and procedures for interpreting managerial accounting reports in a company. Austin says the factory method gives students an active example of a real life work environment.

“Managerial accounting is for internal purposes, so how do managers within a company use accounting to make decisions,” Austin said. “So something like in a factory how do they keep track of all their costs, and then from all those different kinds of costs decide how to price their product, decide where they need to cut costs, and make better decisions as managers.”

Austin then refers to the factory later in the course, to help students remember and understand basic concepts.

“This specific activity created a really good foundation for the rest of the class,” Austin said. “In subsequent chapters I could refer back to ‘remember when we were doing the Austin dessert company? The quality control people were indirect labor.’ So they could reflect back, picture it quickly, and we all had a common example in our heads.”

Austin joined the Robins School of Business in fall of 2016. She graduated from University of Georgia in May with her Ph.D. in accounting. Her research interests involve using experimental methods to understand and improve auditors’ judgments and decision making, with a focus on how to motivate auditors to exercise professional skepticism and be alert to fraud throughout the audit.