2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: CJ Skender, UNC (Kenan-Flagler)

C. J. Skender

Clinical Professor of Accounting

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

To know CJ Skender is to love him. And to have him as a professor is nothing short of an experience. If the colorful assortment of bowties, matching socks, and dapper suits with suspenders aren’t enough, he’s also been known to play music at the beginning of each class and follow it up with a hefty dose of cheesy jokes for good measure.

He holds eleven accounting industry designations and more than two dozen teaching excellence awards. He’s taught more than 700 classes and more students than anyone can count. To add to his biography, he even made a brief appearance on TMZ this year on behalf of accounting student and UNC basketball star, Luke Maye.

At the heart of it all is his love for teaching. He’s been known to tell students to follow his example; to find the job they would do even if they didn’t get paid for it.

Age: 62

At current institution since: Taught classes at UNC from 1981 to 1983 and have been regular full-time professor since 1997

Education: BS in Economics (Accounting) from Lehigh University in 1976; MBA (Finance and Accounting) from the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University in 1981

List of courses currently teaching: Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting, Cost Accounting, and Accounting for Complex Deals

Fun fact about yourself: I wear my suit jacket for the first half of every class and take it off the second half. I wear bow ties on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and neck ties on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. My socks are arranged by the colors of the rainbow and my underwear is arranged alphabetically:  boxers, briefs, round necks and V-necks. The dollar bills in my wallet are ordered by serial number.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” On my first day at Duke (1979) I introduced myself and told the class, “My wife just gave birth to our son on Sunday (nine months and a day after we were married).”  The students immediately gave me a standing ovation.  Let the record show I NEVER got a standing ovation working as an auditor.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I would be a rock-and-roll disc jockey on either the ‘60s or ‘70s channels on SiriusXM radio.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Invigorating

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students?  Their relentless enthusiasm and commitment to excellence

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students?  Making them laugh at my outdated jokes.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done?  I have to list two here:  Harrison Barnes was drafted 7th in the NBA draft in 2012 and then played for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors in 2015. Andrew Miller was drafted 6th in the MLB draft in 2006 and then pitched in the World Series for the Cleveland Indians in 2016. Andrew also won a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox in 2013.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? I really couldn’t think of a least favorite thing any student has done. Though last semester a student remarked, “You remind me of my great grandfather.” And at the very beginning of my career, a student wrote on a course evaluation: “Skender has all the attributes of a great comedian …. except for timing, delivery and decent material.” It made me laugh.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class?  Work hard and play hard

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Demanding, but fair

“But I would describe myself as …” A very generous Santa Claus

What are your hobbies? Five grandchildren, sports, music, and movies

How did you spend your summer? Getting my tan back (or my back tan); travelled to 8 states (PA, MI, RI, GA, CA, UT, NJ and WI)

Favorite place to vacation: Hawaii (2001)

Favorite book: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Favorite movie and/or television show:  “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942) and “Happy Days”  – Rocky (1976) and Dead Poets Society (1989) are other favorite movies.  “Leave It to Beaver” and “Room 222” and “Mork and Mindy” and “WKRP” are other favorite TV shows.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Story songs and the late Harry Chapin. Our daughter was named after his song “Corey’s Coming.”

Bucket list item #1: Be there to see each of my grandchildren on their wedding days

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Teaching my 700th class

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? Teaching all three children in a college class

Professor you most admire and why: Dr. John S. Hughes at UCLA. He is brilliant, eloquent, and, most of all, he cares about ALL of his students. My hero.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?  The relationship between positive feedback and student performance for undergraduate accounting students. Students typically follow the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Twitter handle: I don’t tweet but if I did it would be something like cobracj. I was “C. J. the deejay, the Cobra in the Christmas City when I worked as a disc jockey in college.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” Challenging accounting courses. Friday afternoon happy hours.  

“And much less of this…” Final exams   

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you: Happily married 49 years, weighing in at < 200 pounds and still carrying a full load teaching my 800th class!

Students say…

“Your class has been the most challenging, yet the most engaging class I have had at Carolina. Your lectures were so organized, so clear, and each day things would click more and more.  I looked forward to lecture, and felt at ease because you were always so prepared and you worked to prepare us with examples and problems. Being in your classroom was a joy with your jokes, music, and movie clips added in. Even though the material was difficult, you gave us techniques and tools to succeed with the course pack and practice tests, all thirteen of them!  …. I felt like I was really being led through the material, and guided to the finish line. Thank you for being so enthusiastic, so kind, and for being on our team.  It always felt like you were working with us.  I have never had a teacher who genuinely cared so much whether the students were learning, and who worked to build us up. Thank you for always cheering us on. Your work to instill confidence in us is so appreciated.”

“Thank you for intertwining life and accounting, for sharing stories, and jokes, and making me laugh all while balancing t-accounts and budgeting. I am just one out of a couple hundred of your students this semester, but do know that your work this semester has influenced me, how exactly I cannot yet say. Your words mean a lot, as they did even going into the final exam.”

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.