Alf Eastergard: We Create Not Clerks but Rounded Professionals
Alf Eastergard first set foot at the American University in Bulgaria in 1997 after teaching accounting for several years at different U.S. universities. His most recent appointment had been the University of Maine, a founding partner of AUBG, where he learned about a teaching opportunity at AUBG. With massive economic change underway in Bulgaria at the time, Eastergard says he leapt at the chance to be where history was being made.
Twelve years on Eastergard is one of the most beloved and charismatic professors at the University. His main teaching technique is making students laugh while relating complicated theories to funny everyday situations.
What is the secret of his bright smile and boundless energy? Eastergard says that students are his inspiration and being among young people makes you feel young.
His AUBG students are more prepared from high school and also more motivated than their U.S. counterparts. Former students of his excel in prestigious masters programs around the world or start their own successful businesses. Currently, Eastergard is working with a student on a senior thesis project about the seasonality of companies.
A liberal arts college like AUBG is a great place to teach business, Eastergard says, because liberal education helps you become a whole human being. Mere technical knowledge will only teach you how to be a technocrat. Debits and credits change, everything changes, he says, while one needs a wider set of skills writing, speaking, time management, and teamwork skills in order to be a fully rounded professional.
In order to better assist his students Eastergard created a website with accounting tutorials. He dedicated all of last year to the project while he was on a sabbatical leave from AUBG. He says of the initiative that he likes to exploit new technologies. He worked on the site every day and it wasnt easy, but you always start with a high goal and then you do what you can. Eastergard says that using modern technologies enriches the educational process immensely. The Internet lets us explore new ways to communicate accounting knowledge outside a four-walled classroom any time of the day [or night]. The medium differs, but the material is as solid as that presented in any university classroom.
What are Eastergards future plans? Win a lottery and go to the beach, he answers with a typical sense of humor. Then he admits that he plans to continue teaching at AUBG because having gotten used to AUBG students talent, ambition, and sense of humor, he cannot imagine going back to an institution in the United States.