Ep. 51: Dr. Kelly Richmond Pope - Fraud, Film, and Lifelong Learning

Dr. Kelly Richmond Pope is an Associate Professor in the School of Accountancy and Management Information Systems at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois where she teaches financial, managerial and forensic accounting. Kelly’s research on organizational misconduct culminated into directing and producing the award-winning documentary, All the Queen’s Horses, in 2017 which streamed on Netflix from July 2018-2019. In 2018, Pope became a TED speaker with her impactful and timely TED Talk entitled ‘How whistle-blowers shape history.’ Her research has been published in the Behavioral Research in Accounting, Auditing: A Journal of Theory & Practice, Journal of Business Ethics, The CPA Journal and WebCPA. She holds a Ph.D. in accounting from Virginia Tech and is a licensed CPA. In this episode of Count Me In, Kelly summarizes all her above experiences and shares an insightful perspective on how accounting, and accounting education, can effectively combine her passions for fraud, film, and lifelong learning. Her general curiosity and involvement in various topics enables her to peak the interest of and engage her students on a regular basis. To hear about how you may be able to weave your passions together and enhance your learning in the area of accounting, download and listen to this episode now! peak

Welcome back to Count Me In, IMAs podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. I'm your host, Adam Larson, and I will be previewing episode 51 of our series for you. In this episode, Mitch spoke with Dr. Kelly Richmond Pope and associate professor in the school of accountancy and management information systems at DePaul university in Chicago, Illinois. Mitch asked Kelly about her various passions and how she works to combine them all in her accounting classes. Kelly is an education innovator who is an extremely engaging and thoughtful speaker. So at this time I'd like to bring you episode 51 of count me in with Dr. Kelly Richmond Pope. 
Mitch: (00:48)
So based on your LinkedIn and some other podcasts I've listened to you contribute to, I know you've said in the past, your passions are fraud, film, and lifelong learning. So to kind of start and we'll talk about fraud first, what is it about that and ethics that makes you so passionate? 
Kelly: (01:06)
Okay. Well, I think what makes me so passionate about fraud as a subject area is that any of us can find ourselves either engaged in one or victimized by one. And so it doesn't discriminate. And so I think it's not a situation where it's them. It could be any of us. And so I think the, the fact that anybody could be involved in one is really what fascinates me about them. And I think if you look at the trend of popular culture with the number of shows about crime and fraud, I think other people would agree that it is a very addictive type discipline. And I think it's so addictive because it's so applicable to all of us. So that's really what fuels my fascination. 
Mitch: (02:02)
And I completely agree with you. It really does draw you in all these movies and television shows. I know another part of, you know, or the main part really of what you do is teaching. And I'm just curious how you kind of weave this idea of this fascination and passion for fraud into the classroom. 
Kelly: (02:20)
Well, I think what is really important about accounting as a discipline is accounting is the backbone of everything or money or the ability to account for money correctly. And so regardless of what the fraud scenario is, there's always a money story and there's always a financial impact. So the person that can understand that and explain that to the lay person is the most powerful person in the room. So I use fraud as a way to really invigorated my accounting classes and my accounting students so they can understand the power that they're learning. Because I think that fraud and ethics is the absence of accounting done, right? And so really helping students and even adult learners or corporate learners understand the power of this information is important. And I think the fraud stories are so powerful, but there's always a money story in every case. And so if we can better understand that, then it makes for a more enriching learning experience, whether that's the classroom, whether that's a CPE session, whether that's a training workshop. So I use that really as part of my secret sauce, if you will, when I'm doing a presentation. 
Mitch: (03:46)
And then I suppose the next step is where we can start to weave in that second piece of your passion triangle, if you want to call it and film. So in addition to just basic fraud and ethics curriculum and your accounting courses, you know, how do you go about working in film and media? Are there any specific examples you'd like to share? 
Kelly: (04:06)
Well, I had a crazy idea about six years ago that I could create my own film. And so I did, I enrolled in a film fellowship program with Kartemquin films, which is a film collaborative based in Chicago. And I learned the business and the creative aspect of filmmaking and I want it to bring that type of storytelling into the accounting discipline because I think that stories are a way that we communicate and a way that we learn a lot of information. And I wanted to create my own. So I did this six month film fellowship program and out of that was the birth of my documentary, called All The Queen's Sources and All The Queen's Sources streamed on Netflix for a year from 27, 2018 to 2019. And I'm, it now lives on iTunes, Amazon, Google play direct TV, YouTube. And it actually was the number one documentary on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, direct TV on it's first debut two week debut, weeks on that platform. But I think it shows the power of a great story, but I'm teaching accounting through that, through the story. So that's how it really merged the two. I didn't always want to be in the situation where I was relying on another filmmaker to hit the key points that I wanted to hit. So I just said, you know what, I can do it myself. And I think it's really important when someone from our profession makes a film because we have, we're going to go about a film and the way that an accountant needs to pull out these key key topics, which is very different than a traditional filmmaker may pull out key topics. So I think film and accounting go hand in hand. 
Mitch: (06:03)
That's really interesting and I can certainly appreciate the perspective of knowing the steps to go through the process and convey the right message through the story. But everything you just said leads perfectly into step three, which is lifelong learning. You already talked about, you know, learning how to make a film and going through that program. So what else are you really interested in learning about when it comes to accounting, media, whatever it may be? 
Kelly: (06:29)
Well, I think one of the things I like to do is I want to encourage my students to be lifelong learners. I really stress in every class that I have is that it's not about the test. It's not about an exam, whether it's the CMA exam, whether it's a CPA exam, whether it's the CFE exam, it's about your quest for knowledge and this lifelong learning desire that you need to have in you. And so it's something that I instill within my students, but it's also something that I personally believe in. I, last weekend I took a jewelry making class because I was tired of going to the store and buying jewelry when I felt like, you know what? I can make what I have in my head. Why am I searching for it? Why can't I just do it myself? So it really sort of is part of my personality and my quest to want to always keep learning. If you think about your brain as a muscle, which it is, you know, we go to the gym, we work out our other body parts. We need to still work out our brains. And the only way we can do that is by learning, continuing to learn. I'm wanting to learn challenging subjects, whether that's a new language, whether that's learning how to cook, whether that's something that's sort of outside of your comfort zone. But what I found is there's so many compliments to the accounting profession that most everything, all roads lead back to accounting is what I like to say when I'm in an audience of non accountants because it's really true. 
Mitch: (08:06)
I just want to take one step back real quick and just ask you if you can pinpoint any maybe event or whatever you attribute your curiosity to. To me it sounds like, you know, you have such an interest in learning new things. You're curious about things you want to solve problems. So when did that really start? 
Kelly: (08:24)
Well, I think my interest of being this curious creature really comes from being a professor. I mean, one of the beauties of being an educator is every class is a new slate. It's like a new canvas where you can try new things and think about innovative ways to convey information to an audience that doesn't know what you're going to tell them. So that in itself is a 10 week challenge that I'm presented with. Every time I have a new new group of students or every time I do a workshop or an invited talk somewhere, I look at that as a new challenge. And so one of the things that I enjoy is the ability to always be able to reinvent and recreate yourself. I never wanted to do something or be in a position where I did the same thing every single day. And being an educator is the perfect job for somebody that wants to continuously change and continuously update themselves and use new new methods to do that. So I think it started early just when I decided that I wanted to become an educator. 
Mitch: (09:37)
And this will loop us right back to our conversation and really focus on the accounting student. You know, the accounting professional continuing education. What is it that you believe all accountants must do, must be aware of you know, things that you really emphasize and focus in your classes where your presentations? 
Kelly: (09:59)
I think all accountants must be comfortable with, um, the trend in understanding data analytics and I think we have to embrace technology in a way that makes us more efficient and more efficient in dealing with clients. And that's you know, utilizing bots, understand AI. We have to keep up with the trends and be able to be flexible and nimble. And so I think right now if you asked me this today, I think all accountants need to be aware of data analytics. I think that, and to say that differently, we all need to be comfortable with learning a new language. And that doesn't have to be a new language like Spanish, French. I'm Italian. It needs, it means a new coding language. So I think challenging ourselves to learn how to code and being comfortable with things that we might outsource in the past we need to become versatile in a lot of different areas. And I picked this up when I started interacting with filmmakers and I realize that filmmakers have about six different skills wrapped up in one person. They often can do graphic design, they can shoot video, they can edit video, they know how to light spaces. They know how they know about audio, so they know all of these things. They're like a one stop shop kind of person. And I think that we need to be the same kind of person, that same type of professional where we have all the skills wrapped up in us as well. So we don't have to outsource so much of what we do. So I think that that's one of the things that we need to do 'em so we can become the super professional as opposed to being concerned that we're going to be an outsourced profession. 
Mitch: (11:55)
I love that response and I appreciate that perspective on this. So I would kind of just like to ask a follow up and wrap up the conversation with, you know, what do you see the connection between data analytics, all these emerging technologies and the fraud that you are so passionate about, where does that intersection occur? 
Kelly: (12:14)
Well, that's a really interesting question because I think with the use of data, I mean data will allow us to observe behaviors pick out trends that the human professional may not be able to do as quickly because we have so many personal biases that enter into our judgment. And so I think with the use of data, we will be able to identify fraud patterns in a way that we might not have been able to in the past. So I hope that as we embrace data analytics and more technology fraud discovery will start to rise. Because if you really think about a fraud is one of our, one of our world epidemics. And so if we can use data as a way to minimize the impact of fraud, then that will be a good thing. 
Announcer: (13:07)
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