Joyce van der Laan Smith is the new associate dean for undergraduate programs and the director of assessment and accreditation for the Robins School of Business. She is known throughout the school for her accounting classes, as well as her annual trip with a group of students to London. Read more about her new role below.

Q: What is your career background? How did you get to where you are?

A: I started at the Robins School in 2008, so this will be my tenth academic year at the University. This is my second career. I am a CPA, among other businesses I worked at a public accounting firm and at a Fortune 500 company in financial reporting. I did that for many years, and then went to Virginia Commonwealth University where I earned my Ph.D. in accounting.  While pursing my Ph.D. I taught financial reporting at Virginia State University, and that’s what I have done here.

Q: What courses did you teach at the Robins School before becoming associate dean?

A: Primarily, I have taught freshmen and sophomores in Fundamentals of Accounting, and seniors in Advanced Financial Accounting. I want my students to understand and know how to interpret financial statements. I want them to be comfortable picking one up and knowing the questions to ask. I want them to understand what’s behind the numbers.

Q: Describe your annual trip to London.

A:  That is through the Global Accounting Perspectives course, and it’s for accounting majors only, as the intent is to gain an understanding of how international financial reporting standards are used. In preparation, we do case studies before going to London. While there, we meet with members of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and go over the cases with them. It’s an incredible experience for the students. We’ve also had a member of IASB meet with the students to describe the global accounting environment. They have experiences that normally they wouldn’t, for example in the past we have had a tour of parliament, but every year we go to Lloyd’s of London so they can see the insurance exchange, and to the Climate Change and Sustainability group at PwC. I try to show them the breadth of what they can do within the accounting profession.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for students to get out of the classroom experiences like the trip to London?

A: It helps students understand how what they’re learning is actually being developed and applied, particularly in accounting, which is always changing. Often there is a perception with accounting standards that the rules are set in stone. That cannot be further from the truth. When we go to IASB, the students are talking to people who are developing those accounting standards, and it really opens their minds to critically thinking about ‘Are these standards correct? Should they be changed? How should they be applied?’ I want to get them to that level.

Q: What will you be doing in your new role?

A: I’ll be working quite a bit with students. I’ll also be working closely with our faculty to make sure our policies are consistent, and to set up assessment goals that make sense to us. Fortunately, I’m working with people who are very good at what they do. The group in the Dean’s suite has been very welcoming, and that’s making the job much easier. I also look forward to the opportunity to focus on sustainability and diversity, and how we can implement those initiatives within the Robins School.

You can reach out to Joyce at jvanderl@richmond.edu.