By Lori Ferguson
When it comes to white-collar criminals, says Associate Professor of Accountancy Kelly Richmond Pope, the typical response is, “It’s them, not me. I’m a good person. I would never do anything like that.” Pope has made a name for herself in the field of forensic accounting by revealing the truth—nearly anyone can venture down the wrong path.
Pope specializes in the study of fraud committed by white-collar professionals and shares her findings in a diverse assortment of venues: in the classroom, in academic journals like Behavioral Research in Accounting, in the pages of such general-interest media as the Daily Beast and the Washington Post, and through an animated lecture on TED-Ed, an extension of TED Talks. She also seeks to educate others through the creation of award-winning documentary films, including “Crossing the Line: Ordinary People Committing Extraordinary Crime” and her in-process documentary “All the Queen’s Horses,” the story of Rita Crundwell of Dixon, Ill., who perpetrated the largest municipal fraud in American history.
“When I talk about fraud in my classes,” Pope says, “I’m always working to break down the barriers and help students understand their inherent vulnerability. I’ll put students on the spot by saying, ‘If you walked into this classroom and saw money on the table, what would you do?’ It’s interesting to hear their responses. They’ll ask ‘How much money?’ and ‘Is there a camera in the room?’ My questions create tension, which is great, because that’s where learning occurs.”
Pope also asks students to take the Myers-Briggs personality test and write a personal mission statement outlining the tenets they live by. She collects the answers and, at the end of the course, redistributes the papers so that students can see what they’ve said and how their perceptions may have changed. “My goal is to send students into the business world with eyes wide open and with the ability for self-reflection,” Pope explains.
“I teach students by bringing the real-world issues gleaned from my research into the classroom and creating a space where people can explore their ideas without being judged,” she continues. “As an educator, I want to make sure that I build better people, and I believe that has to happen in an academic environment.”
“My goal is to send students into the business world with eyes wide open and with the ability for self-reflection.”