Cultural connections through Accounting

Mike Hendrickson’s ‘Ethics and Self Responsibility’ course brings out human side of numbers-crunching

Truth and Reconciliation 2017

American Indian Studies senior Sashay Schettler (left) and accounting senior Sam Erickson (right) pack winter coats following the Sixth Annual Coat Drive. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Surrounded by boxes of coats in his Gamble Hall office, Mike Hendrickson chuckled at the ambition of his students.

“This year, they’re trying for 1,000,”said Hendrickson, an adjunct professor of accounting, alluding to last year’s record-setting 700 items donated. “I don’t know if they’ll get there, but we have a lot.”

Mere hours after his comments to UND Today, Hendrickson and his students counted more than 1,400 items including coats, sweaters, hats and mittens. The Sixth Annual Coat Drive looks to be a resounding success.

The items will go to Spirit Lake Reservation and Cankdeska Cikana (Little Hoop) Community College, where they’ll be set out in the school’s gymnasium and available to the community.

According to Hendrickson, the need is dire on North Dakota’s reservations.

Last year, the accounting professor met with Little Hoop’s President and UND alumna Cynthia Lindquist, seeking a way to effectively deliver donations. This year, Hendrickson feels confident about a growing partnership between the institutions.

“We’ll get as many students as possible to go, and it’ll be a sort of gift exchange,” said Hendrickson as he gestured to two brightly-colored gift bags on his desk. “And that’s part of their culture.”

Becca Birdsell, a senior accounting major, had her entire hometown of Harvey, N.D., collecting coats for the cause. Her family didn’t have enough room in the vehicle for their own donations.

Truth and Reconciliation Coat Drive 2017

Adjunct Accounting Professor Mike Hendrickson (right) observes the taping skills of accounting senior Tien Nguyen (left) in Gamble Hall. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Truth and reconciliation

Another effort established in Hendrickson’s Accounting 494: Ethics and Self Responsibility course goes beyond the annual coat drive. “Truth and Reconciliation,” as it’s known, is a student panel and project dedicated to opening up more dialogue about Native American issues.

Only in its second year, the project’s collaborations with UND’s American Indian Student Center already have had an impact.

In its first year, the panel partnered with American Indian students on campus to co-author articles focusing on ideas and actions of the past that drove native populations to near-annihilation. The articles were included in the Dakota Student and sent to publications near native communities, such as the Devils Lake Journal and the Turtle Mountain Star.

Sashay Schettler, a senior majoring in American Indian Studies and enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes from Bismarck, was one of the co-authors. She’s now enrolled in Hendrickson’s Ethics and Responsibility course and one of seven students heading up the Truth and Reconciliation project.

Hendrickson had asked Schettler to join his class so she could keep contributing to the project. Schettler says, in the process, she’s learned more about accounting than she’d ever previously considered.

“‘Ethics and Self Responsibility’ is a broader picture,” said Schettler, who also served as president of the UND Indian Studies Association. “Obviously, there’s an emphasis in accounting, but we’re presented historical narratives of injustices and their ties to ethics. His lessons ask students how they’ll react when they are faced with challenges … He teaches us not to compromise ourselves for money, power or status.”

Truth and Reconciliation Coat Drive 2017

Accounting senior Shawn McHale (center) organizes coats, hats and other winter items following the Sixth Annual Coat Drive. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

More than a number

Hendrickson finds one phrase, in particular, of the Lakota language important to understanding the concept of the Ethics and Self Responsibility course: “mitakuye oyasin,” which roughly translates to “we are all part of one thing.” The phrase, he says, also helps establish a sensitivity to cultures that have been here far longer than those dominating the region today.

“You can’t have truth and reconciliation unless both sides are at the table,” Hendrickson said. “How do we reconcile? Well, it starts with cultural exchanges.”

Shawn McHale, a senior accounting major and fellow Truth and Reconciliation project member, knew he wanted to be involved when he started to read last year’s articles and learned more about the work of Hendrickson’s students.

“You have to apply to be in (the course), it isn’t open enrollment, and in my application I emphasized that it’s a unique experience; I wanted to be involved in some way,” said McHale, a native of Waconia, Minn.

As part of Truth and Reconciliation, Both Schettler and McHale have been working on a social media campaign, titled “No Longer Invisible.”

“We thought it was very important to hear someone’s story,” Schettler said. “We want to showcase an image of someone, or a piece of art they connect with, and attach a paragraph of their story that they want to put out to the world.”

Schettler and McHale look to Hendrickson as a mentor. Both expressed the positive impact he’s made on all of his students through his teaching.

“I want to leave the world a better place than how I came to it,” McHale said. “Having the opportunity to reach out and learn more about native peoples is going to make me a better person, help me give back and affect someone in a more positive way.”