Meet Bret Johnson, academic director of Mason’s Master’s in Accounting Program


For Bret Johnson, academic director of the Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) program at George Mason University School of Business, joining Mason was like coming home.

Johnson previously lived in Fairfax County where he spent 10 years working as a senior auditor for Ernst & Young and as a staff accountant at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), prior to pursuing his PhD at Ohio State. Johnson says, “When I had the chance to come back to the area to join the Mason faculty, it was a dream come true.” 

Bret Johnson
Bret Johnson

Johnson joined the accounting faculty at Mason in 2015. His research and teaching interests are in financial accounting, particularly focused on disclosure and regulation.  

Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with Johnson to learn more about his role in the MSA program, his own teaching process and research interests, and opportunities for students that show why Mason’s MSA program is All Together Different

What do you appreciate the most about Mason? 
One thing I love most about Mason is the diversity of our student body and faculty. I love the open academic culture where everyone can freely share their ideas and perspectives. 

What are your responsibilities as the academic director of the MS in Accounting program? 
My responsibilities include leading curriculum review and changes to improve the program, overseeing the assurance of learning and accreditation processes, engaging with students, helping with recruiting, evaluating and supporting faculty, and ensuring the program is delivering on its intended objectives. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of being the program’s academic director? 
I love interacting with students. One of the highlights of our program is the MSA Global Residency. I've had the chance to take students to various countries in Europe, Asia (virtually), and I am currently planning next year's residency to Brazil. I lived in Brazil for two years, but I haven't been back in almost 30 years, so I'm excited for this opportunity. 

What can you say about the MSA program’s add-on accounting certificates? How might potential students benefit from earning these credentials?  
We currently have four graduate certificates associated with the MSA program, which can be completed on a stand-alone basis or in conjunction with the MSA: accounting analytics, forensic accounting, government accounting, and accounting for government contracts. Graduating with one of these certificates provides an additional credential that sets our graduate students apart as they signal to the market the focus area of their elective course of study and their developed expertise in these areas. 

What can you tell us about the program’s future? 
Some things we are currently working on include seeking STEM designation, continuing to improve the curriculum to meet evolving demands in the profession, including incorporating more accounting analytics throughout the program, and bringing the program even more in line with the CPA evolution. We are also considering launching a graduate tax certificate and/or a Master of Science in Taxation program. We continue to have a strong and growing pipeline of qualified students (including our own Bachelor’s Accelerated Master’s students), so I have very high expectations for our MSA program going forward. 

Tell us a bit about your teaching strategy. 
I set up the expectations for the class, and my students take responsibility for their own learning. I have high expectations but I do everything I can to help my students reach their goals. I use a variety of teaching methods, including case studies, small group work, presentations, and writing assignments. I help students develop deeper levels of learning to include application of technical skills, communication skills, and even creating their own cases. 

What is the academic project, study, or publication you are most proud of, and why?  
Even though it is not published in a top-tier academic journal, my paper entitled 'SEC comment letters and firm disclosure" is my most cited study and is also covered in some PhD program seminars around the country, which has generated a lot of research interest in the area of SEC regulation.  

What projects are you currently working on?  
One of my current research projects is a study examining how managers change their reporting behavior when undergoing an SEC investigation, even if there is no formal enforcement action brought against the company.  

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself. 
One fun fact, that perhaps only an accountant would appreciate, is that my wife and I have 12 siblings combined, but only one of which is a sister. My wife was the only girl in her family growing up with seven brothers, and I have four brothers and one sister!  

Mason’s Master’s in Accounting (MSA) program is designed to help you meet Virginia’s 150-credit CPA licensing requirement while developing advanced analytical, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills.  

If you’re considering earning a master’s degree in accounting, Mason’s MSA program is highly ranked, has both online and in-person options, and allows you to add a specialized accounting certificate to your master’s degree. Mason’s program also allows you to build ties to the local Washington, D.C. business and government communities through our Accounting Advisory Council members and our experienced faculty. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Mason’s Master’s in Accounting program, register for an upcoming info session or request more information about the program here

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