Bringing Passion and Wit to Accounting: Lecturer Suneel Udpa Honored for Lifetime Achievement

Many teachers leave a mark, but certain teachers touch their students in a special way—and if you speak with Haas Lecturer Suneel Udpa, it’s clear why people in his accounting classes love him.

“Class time has to be fun time,” he says. “Students have a dozen things on their mind and I assure you, accounting is not one of them.”
It’s that kind of lighthearted manner coupled with a deep caring for his discipline that has made Udpa a beloved figure at the school, and now the recipient of the first-ever Berkeley-Haas Lifetime Achievement Award.

Accounting Lecturer Suneel Udpa (middle) accepts his Lifetime Achievement Award, with Dean Lyons (left) and Jay Stowsky (right).

“His love of teaching is infectious and his love for students is deeply felt,” said Jay Stowsky, senior assistant dean for instruction, who presented the award on Jan. 16 during the Berkeley MBA for Executives graduation ceremony.  The EMBA class created the award this year. “He has transformed the way students think and made them better, more well-rounded individuals.”

Dean Rich Lyons said a combination of strengths makes Udpa a great teacher. “His passion and depth of knowledge about accounting comes first. Then Suneel has this special gift that enables him to capture the attention of a classroom with outstanding lectures. His connection to students is real.”

This was not the first time Udpa has been recognized for his classroom work. He also received the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching four times across two different programs: in 2003, 2007, 2010 for his teaching in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program, and in 2013 for his work with the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Program.
Udpa has been lecturing at Berkeley-Haas since 2000. He teaches a range of accounting core courses and electives in all three of the school’s MBA programs, as well as in the undergraduate program.

Throughout all his classes, he uses levity and a dry wit to connect with students.

“Students have low expectations when they sign up for an accounting class,” he jokes. “They’re grateful that I make it a wee bit more interesting than watching grass grow.”

But it’s not all jokes with Udpa.

“Non-accountants don’t get this, but accounting is a fascinating discipline,” he says. “Students love to see the application of fundamental principles to real-world issues and are eager to participate.”

He finds accounting both elegant and extremely important, and gets this across to students by making the fundamentals clear and simple, showing them how accounting rules can be traced back to one Italian monk 500 years ago and yet impact so many things today.

Udpa says he is touched and honored by the award, especially considering the illustrious company he is in at Berkeley-Haas.

“I am infinitely grateful for having the opportunity to teach here,” he says. “It has changed my life.”