UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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Patricia Harms

Professor teaches students keys to powerful communication

Patricia HarmsIt takes much more than accounting to be a successful accountant.

Most UNC Master of Accounting graduates initially take public accounting jobs, usually at global accounting and consulting firms. In those roles, being a skilled communicator is just as important as knowledge of tax law or financial accounting standards.

“Accountants have to be really great listeners,” says Dr. Patricia Harms, a UNC MAC faculty member who has a Ph.D. in rhetoric and professional communication. 

Her goal is to help students become great communicators, a critical part of being successful when they land their first jobs.

“We try to help them hit the ground running when they start working and also give them the skills they need to continue growing, continue developing,” she says.

Those skills include interpersonal communication, writing, and presenting and speaking. Harms customizes her classes according to the needs of each student.

“The personalities and social styles of our students vary greatly,” she says. Some students may be nervous speaking in front of groups and need to develop confidence and presenting skills. Others are very outspoken individuals who may need, Harms says, to learn "to slow down and listen."

Students practice how to give and receive one-on-one feedback, deliver a compelling presentation and write in clear, jargon-free English so non-accountants will understand.

The focus on communication skills, Harms says, sets UNC’s MAC Program apart from competitors.

“Including a professional communication course in the core curriculum is a new movement in Master of Accounting programs,” she says. “We’re on the front edge of the movement."

>> A description of Prof. Harms’ Professional Communication course
>> See a list of all Accounting faculty

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