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Dr Lisa Powell packs POW!! Stand between her and a University student’s wellbeing and....well, let’s just say Marvel Comic heroes are shaking in their boots. Accounting is for dull, bean-counting, pinstripe wearing, Coke bottle eyewear flaunting, necktie-doubled-as-a-noose type folk....right? Well, that would mean someone signed Lisa up for the wrong class. This Accounting wiz is a selfconfessed tree-hugging fuzzy-animal-lovin’ flowerchild from way back. SAVE the whales! SAVE accounting practitioners! SAVE accounting students! It’s all in a day’s work. In a nutshell, the research of the Business School’s Dr Lisa Powell involves trying to figure out the best way to assist students to reach their full potential; exploring ways to improve student accessibility to lifelong learning. The uninitiated to the Accounting discipline might think folk entering study are abnormally dextrous with a calculator, or perhaps possess an unrivalled intimate knowledge of Windows Excel. Such super-powers will only get you so far. Surprisingly enough in the accounting field, a practitioner might occasionally be required to provide a written report. Shock! Horror! Did you say write??? You mean you have to use words other than the kind you can make with numbers typed into a calculator turned upside down? (Try: ‘7734’.) This is where Lisa comes to the rescue.....she’ll save you from 7734. When you have to explain to a senior exec at Joe Bloggs Accounting what you’ve been doing with your work time – you’ll be glad you met Lisa. Communication skills are handy to have - even if you do work with numbers. So how did Lisa become passionate about the student experience? The product of a conservative all-girl school education, Lisa recalls the monotony of going to class. She wasn’t a disruptive student – to the contrary, she was a good student, but it didn’t excite her and she didn’t feel connected. She didn’t spend her school years lying awake at night dreaming of becoming an Accountant. A process of elimination brought her to knock on the Economics door: Should I be a Doctor? Nope. Lawyer? Nope. Proctologist? Tempting, but no. What’s left? Oh yeah, Accounting looks good – I might try that. For Lisa, the University experience was liberating. (*Being tossed in The University of Adelaide Law School pond as Lisa was, would probably be liberating for anyone!) The chance to mix and mingle with students from all walks of life and academic interests proved exhilarating for her. The Uni Bar on a Friday night also rated highly. (Pre-Facebook, how else were you supposed to stay connected?) The University experience as a whole was important to Lisa - not just the act of attending lectures and writing assignments. Lisa didn’t imagine herself as a University lecturer. After Uni, she had one interview and scored the job – (she thinks it a wonder she achieved that much, given she hadn’t really thought too much about her career.) Sitting in a windowless cube farm managing other people’s money on a computer screen unfortunately didn’t fulfil Lisa’s social soul. So she left behind the corporate life and crossed over to the dark side, beginning a Fine Art degree at Underdale (UniSA.) After a year, Lisa also reconsidered that, feeling she didn’t fit the ‘crazy passionate’ art-lover persona. So what does one do when one is looking for one’s self? One travels! Backpacking overseas, Lisa found her direction and promptly returned to study a PY (*now known as a practitioner’s CA.) Lisa’s best friend was lecturing at The Institute of Technology (UniSA) and suggested Lisa try tutoring. And the rest, as they say, is history.
When it comes to research, if Lisa can’t see a practical application for her efforts, what’s the point? Her attitude is: Start with a problem – find a solution. That’s the point to research. There’s no navel gazing going on in Lisa’s office. (Crop tops aren’t just a fashion faux pas - they’re strictly forbidden.) Lisa believes in keeping two feet planted firmly on the ground. She actively surrounds herself with equally down to earth people and maintains strong links with the accounting profession. (She has been a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia since 1984 and a member of the ICAA’s SA/NT Regional Council since 2006). If she won lotto tomorrow, she’d invest her winnings in putting together a team of research assistants and writing specialists to provide support for researchers and focus on vastly improving the student experience. A dedicated teaching space for Business school students would also be top of the agenda – a sense of connection and community is paramount in Lisa’s book. Lisa believes in collating and synthesising information and limiting the waffle. She wants students to grasp the concept there is no ‘quick fix.’ There is no substitute for taking the time to read and to think about a problem. Commitment to the task at hand is necessary. Lisa considers her research as very personal. Career accolades and/or fitting inside a prescribed box of how one should behave as a lecturer/researcher doesn’t sit well with Lisa. Her hippy heart is fed by a strong vein of counter-culture. But saying her work is personal doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold relevance to others. Lisa’s research is generic in its application. Producing graduates who understand who they are as people; where they fit; are they a leader or a follower; what motivates them; what they’re passionate about – is absolute key to a healthy community of accounting practitioners. Or a healthy community period! Lisa’s dream is future students, graduates, practitioners and even young lecturers will have strong accounting role models to look up to. Lisa recalls Mr Michael Jones (University of Adelaide Adjunct Lecturer) was one such mentor, and also her PhD supervisor Professor Lee Parker. What the University needs is staff who actively listen to the concerns of the profession, who embrace and move with change, and who understand students are individuals each with their own special talents. Encouraging individuals to shine is what makes Lisa’s research world go round – and puts the POW!!! in Powell. The people of Gotham City can sleep easy - they’re in safe hands tonight.
Words by Allayne Webster Faculty of the Professions The University of Adelaide, AUSTRALIA 5005 Ph : +61 8 8313 0225 Fax : +61 8 8313 4843 e-mail: email@example.com