University of Georgia: Data literacy prepares students for the future


Founded in 1785, the University of Georgia hosts over 36,000 students in 17 different schools and colleges. The accounting department equips students with critical analytical skills before they enter the workforce.

Professor of Accounting Information Systems, Margaret Christ discusses the importance of fostering data skills in the classroom to prepare students for their first jobs. Since analytics knowledge is a leading factor in hiring decisions at accounting firms, professors at UGA decided to incorporate hands-on Tableau trainings and use cases into the coursework.

After incorporating the tool, professors have seen a new energy in accounting classes. Students eagerly engage with Tableau while gaining real-world experience for their future professions.


Tableau: Why did you bring Tableau into your classroom?
Margaret Christ, Professor, Accounting Information Systems: We've decided that we want all of our undergrad accounting students to have some exposure to data analytics before they go into their internships and into their jobs. Accounting firms have all told us that they really want the accounting students to have those skills when they start.

In the last couple years, data analytics has become a really important initiative in most of the accounting firms. Most accounting students graduate with jobs and so we have a constant dialogue with the firms about what skill sets they really want their staff to have.

Tableau: How do you use Tableau in the classroom?
Margaret: In the last two years, we've really ramped up our analytics and we have started to incorporate hands-on Tableau training in class, and then a Tableau case. It's been really exciting. The students have really taken to it and have been kind of reenergized by the opportunity.

I feel like I'm really getting [students] the hands-on skills that they need. The employers are impressed, and I just can't wait to do even more next semester.

Margaret: As accounting academics, we're all trying to make these cases as accessible as possible to each other just because we realize that everyone needs to be able to get their students up to speed with where the profession is going.

And I think that shows them not only that data can really tell a story, but it also shows kind of the power that the person who's preparing it has, and how they need to understand what it is that they are communicating because it could be framed differently if they want to.

Tableau: How has your experience been with Tableau?
Margaret: My experiences with data visualization in the classroom so far have been so positive. The excitement and energy that the students are bringing to it is really wonderful. I feel like I'm really getting them the hands-on skills that they need. The employers are impressed, and I just can't wait to do even more next semester.

You need to be able to think and make these decisions, and how to put the data together. And the opportunity to then be creative in how you present that data the most informative way is a really exciting experience for the students.

I've been excited to be able to show my students that accounting is data, and they need to be able to analyze it.

Tableau: In your eyes, what is the value of data?
Margaret: Data is really energizing the business school right now. I've been excited to be able to show my students that accounting is data, and they need to be able to analyze it. And so, that's been a really positive thing for our students.

I think it's so important to understand what the data is telling you when you look at it—but then it is also important how you communicate it to your client or your boss. And I think that shows that data can really tell a story, but it also shows the power of the person preparing the data.

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