If you think accountants sit behind a desk all day crunching numbers, University of Mobile Associate Professor of Accounting Rusty Roberts says you’re in for a surprise.
“This couldn’t be further from the truth,” Roberts says. “There are so many avenues that open up to someone with an accounting degree. In fact, the FBI’s top recruits are those with accounting degrees. Why? Because they are used in the investigation and uncovering of white-collar crime and fraud.”
The possibilities are endless with an accounting degree, he adds. Accountants can work in public accounting doing tax preparation for both individuals and corporations, engaging in audits, work for governments at all levels, or run a business.
“Seriously, accounting is one of the best programs to study. Accounting is the language of business, therefore every business, and even government, must account for every transaction. So, accountants are needed!”
We talked with Roberts about teaching in the Grace Pilot School of Business at the University of Mobile, and how UM’s 2019 Faculty Engagement Award recipient and baseball team chaplain intentionally fosters community among students and invests in their lives.
Q: You have taught at UM for 19 years. What is your background?
A: I am an alumnus of the University of Mobile, holding a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. I also have a master’s in accounting from the University of South Alabama and am currently finishing my Doctor of Business Administration in accounting from Anderson University (Indiana). Prior to teaching at UM, I was a staff accountant and copyright accountant for Integrity Music Inc.
Q: What courses do you typically teach?
A: I teach Principles of Accounting 1 & 2, Intermediate Accounting 1 & 2, Governmental/Not-for-Profit Accounting, Auditing, & Advanced Auditing. I would say my favorite class is probably the Principles of Accounting classes because it’s where all business students are introduced to accounting concepts. It’s there that some students change their major to accounting because they begin to like it. I love when I see the “light bulb” come on and students begin to understand what’s going on and fall in love with accounting.
Q: UM offers “Higher Education for a Higher Purpose.” What does that mean to you?
A: This means that my job is to do more than just prepare a student to be a great accountant who will go into the business world and be successful. Every day I spend with students in the classroom transcends that. My job is to also show students who I have influence over for any length of time that they are studying accounting for a higher purpose – and that purpose is to go into the business world with the Great Commission of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
God created every one of us for the purpose of making His name great in the world. And if we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, then our goal in life is not primarily to make as much money as possible or be as successful in our careers as possible. It is to make the name of Jesus great in a dark world.
But one may ask, “How do I do that if I’m not a pastor or missionary? I’m just an accountant.”
You do that by being the best at what you do. Being excellent at your trade. And through that, you point people to an excellent, great God.
So, as I prepare accounting students to be the best in their trade one day, I do that so they will have a platform to reflect back to how great God is, which exalts His Son Jesus Christ, who when lifted up draws all men to Himself.
Q: We say UM is a place students can “Know and Be Known.” How does that play out for you?
A: Well, the first word that comes to mind is “family.” UM is one big family. It’s a place where no matter your background or what part of the world you come from, once you step on campus as a student, you are a Ram for life. You join one big family that loves and fights for each other no matter what.
I love the fact that we have small class sizes at UM. It allows me to truly get to know my students one-on-one. Because I spend so much time with them in class each day, many of them become friends. When they graduate, get jobs and begin making an impact in the world, it is always encouraging to receive emails or phone calls with life updates.
Q: What makes the University of Mobile special to you?
A: This is hard to narrow down to one thing, so I am going to say two things.
First, I like that we integrate the Gospel into everything that we do. From the time a student arrives on campus to the day they leave as a graduate, all aspects of campus life are saturated with a focus on Jesus Christ. No one leaves UM having not been introduced to the Gospel.
Second, I like that I know my students. I get to live life alongside them for four years as they are not only shaped academically but spiritually. I love that they come into my office, sit on the couch and talk about life with me, as they share their good times and bad times. I love the family that we have at UM!
Q: What are some of your interests or hobbies?
A: Right now, my main interest is finishing a dissertation, so I have little time for other things. When I am not teaching or working on the dissertation, I do like to play tennis. It’s a great way to stay somewhat active amid my busy life.
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: Outside of teaching accounting, I also serve as a pastor to college students at Mars Hill Church in Mobile. I’m passionate about discipling college students as they begin to not only figure out what they will do the rest of their lives or whom they will marry, but how they will be shaped spiritually. The college years usually bring a time in students’ lives where they may begin to question and solidify what they believe and why. I love coming alongside them as they ask those questions and search for truth!