Accounting, college students, personality development, childhood and youth


Experiences early in life or career can shape character and set patterns of behavior. Just as making poor choices in “small things and first things” can adversely affect one’s character and lead to more egregious behavior, making correct choices can positively build the character of a person (Cheffers and Pakaluk 2007). This pedagogical tool provides two examples, one negative and one positive, to help students remember their own character-building experiences. WorldCom accountant Betty Vinson initially resisted an order to make a relatively minor inappropriate journal entry, but caved to management pressure. This set her on a slippery path of accounting fraud leading to jail time for herself and others, and bankruptcy for WorldCom. Students also read the self- reported personal experience of Richard Edgley, a young man who stole three towels from a hotel. When his father discovered the incident the young man felt ashamed and returned the towels. The incident helped define the young man’s character and set a pattern of honest behavior in his business career. After reading Edgley’s story, students write about an example from their own life that had a similar positive influence. Remembering such experiences may empower students to better manage the strength of their own characters with increased resolve to be true to lessons learned early in life or career. Teaching notes are provided for instructors.

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