By Scarlett Barger
For James D. Stice, teaching is a calling as well as a profession. It makes his day as well as his students”.
Stice, distinguished teaching professor and associate director of the MBA program, has won several awards for his unique way of making accounting exciting.
He has taught in the BYU accounting program since 1988 and in the MBA program since 1997.
Ned Hill, dean of the Marriott School of Management, said Stice is known for his orderly mind as well as his hard work and ability to be personable.
“Jim is one of the most devoted people (I know) at BYU,” Hill said. “He”s an all-around heavy hitter.”
Stice is quick-witted and full of energy. In conversation, he is always armed with humorous responses.
While some may groan at the thought of teaching accounting, his eyes shined with excitement when he described it as “the best job on the planet.”
He said that a lot of people go through life wondering what gift the Lord blessed them with.
But Stice said he was lucky enough to find out early.
While finishing his master”s degree in accounting at BYU, he said the department asked him to teach a class at the last minute. Stice said he needed the money, so he agreed to do it. He had planned to be an accountant, but by the end of his first day of teaching, he told his wife he had changed plans.
“I knew in one hour what I was supposed to do,” he said.
According to Stice, the key to teaching effectively is to be excited about the subject. This philosophy can be applied to everything.
“Everything is exciting – everything – even accounting,” he said.
Just as excitement rubs off on students, so does boredom, he said.
“If you”re bored, so are they. And if they”re bored, they”re not gonna learn,” he said.
Asking effective questions is another one of Stice”s teaching methods. When students respond to thought-provoking questions, they mostly end up teaching themselves, he said. The teacher is just facilitating the discussion.
He said it is always a challenge is to create an environment where all students feel they can participate without being embarrassed.
Another thing is getting bored with the subject material. But he said he reminds himself that he must be the best for his students, no matter how much he has heard the material.
But while Stice is praised for his teaching at BYU, he said he never thought he could end up there.
Besides Stice”s treasured collection of books in his office, is a picture from his senior year in high school, in which his hair was down to his shoulders.
“You can infer from that (picture) what kind of kid I was, and you”re exactly right,” he chuckled.
Now bald, Stice is hardly the picture of his youth.
A native of Grantsville, Tooele County, Stice described himself as “every parent”s worst nightmare.”
He said his parents must have wondered about him at times, but his mother”s example of hard work won in the end. Stice said his mother influenced him more than anyone else in his youth.
“I”m not the brightest light bulb there is, and that”s fine, but boy, I can work hard, and that makes up for a whole lot,” he said.
Stice”s older brother, Kay, who works with him in the accounting department, said his brother was the least obedient of his siblings and always tested the limits.
Kay Stice, PricewaterhouseCoopers professor of accounting, said Jim would never back down when he tried to boss him around.
But Kay Stice said the rebellious stage ended when Jim married his wife.
“His wife is an angel,” he said.
He said his brother has the same willpower he had as a teenager – it”s just turned in the right direction.
Because of this experience, Kay Stice said he has learned not to give up on people. When he looks at rebellious teens, he said he thinks to himself, “My brother was the same way, if not worse, and he turned out all right.”
Jim and his wife, Kaye, have seven children. The oldest, Crystal, graduates from BYU in December. The youngest, Cierra, is in first grade. His other children are J.D., Ashley, Whitney, Kara and Skyler.
Besides reading, Jim said his favorite hobby is doing whatever his kids want to do, whether going to a concert or reading Harry Potter.
Kaye Stice said her husband is balanced in showing love to his family as well as succeeding in his job. She said his love of his home comes out in his teaching. He thinks of his students as friends, and he is always concerned about them, she said.
Loving his students is something that comes naturally.
“I care deeply about them,” Jim Stice said. “Even if I don”t know who they are, they”re under my stewardship.”
He said this sense of love is crucial in helping his students.
“If they feel like you care about them, you”ll be more than just a teacher. I have forever friends that are my students.”
Other than making the subject exciting and showing love, everything else is just “icing on the cake,” he said.
Stice said his class is the first in the MBA program, and all MBA students must take it. He has about 280 students every semester, but he gets to know them all.
Kay Stice said he admires his brother”s ability to learn about his students. In classes they teach together, Jim takes the time to ask students things like what they did over the weekend, Kay Stice said.
In their Religion of Ancient History 121 class, the Stice brothers have nametags for their students, so they can learn their names. They constantly relate the scriptures to personal experiences.
One of their students, Jamie Drysdale, 18, a freshman from Columbia, Mo., said she plans to take her next Book of Mormon class from them next semester. She said she enjoys the knowledge and experiences they bring to the class. The way they tease each other relates to the way college students tease their siblings, she said.
“I would not have any other teacher,” she said.
In Stice”s years at BYU, he said he has learned that it isn”t just a university.
Since the purpose of BYU is to prepare students to be leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the community, it is important to teach by the Spirit, he said.
Stice said he feels he is building the kingdom of God through teaching. He expressed the importance of having an eternal perspective.
“If I get to the end of my life and all I can say is ”wow, I”m a good accounting teacher,” I”ve missed the point,” he said.
Kaye Stice said she admires her husband”s ability to see the big picture. It”s not about accounting, she said.
“To him, he”s on a mission,” he said.