Christine Kuglin leads a new program at the Daniels College of Business focused on financial transparency in government
Poll any of Christine Kuglin’s friends from high school—heck, even from middle school—and ask them what she was going to be when she grew up. The answer would likely be unanimous.
Kuglin was destined to be a lawyer, they’d say. Maybe even a judge. No doubt about it.
“And then life happened,” said Kuglin, the director of the University of Denver’s new Truth in Accounting program. “I became a single mother at the age of 19. So the thought of continuing on and going to law school when you’re a single mom is not very practical.”
So Kuglin took the route that made sense at the time, starting an accounting degree, where she could more quickly attain the skills to get a job.
The short path to a steady income has become a long and distinguished career for Kuglin, who joined the Daniels College of Business in July. Her love for studying numbers, quantifying success and following the rules led her to teaching positions at Arapahoe Community College, Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver and Eastern Washington University, where she served as chair of the School of Accountancy. Along the way, she grew MSU Denver’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program and generated millions of dollars in refunds for low- and middle-income families.
At Daniels, she’ll lead Truth in Accounting—a program made possible by alumni Jack (BSBA 1979) and Sheila Weinberg (BSBA 1979). Sheila is founder and CEO of the national, apolitical organization, which is dedicated to educating and empowering everyday citizens with understandable, reliable and transparent government financial information.
Part of Kuglin’s role will be helping produce Truth in Accounting’s annual reports, analyzing the financial state of the nation, states and major cities. She’ll also conduct her own research; most recently, she examined which state pension programs are fully funded and which aren’t.
Kuglin’s job description includes public education too. In “Chris’ Corner” on the Truth in Accounting website, she regularly publishes blog posts on topics ranging from the accessibility of government reports to understanding government credit ratings. In all of her prose, Kuglin strives for clarity, simplicity and objectivity.
“Government accounting isn’t even a required class in most accounting programs anymore,” Kuglin said. “There’s so little emphasis and yet we have trillions of dollars being funded to state and federal governments and we are trillions of dollars in debt as a nation. And nobody was really talking about this or informing the citizenry about the status of our government.”
Taking the job at Daniels was the perfect opportunity for Kuglin to bring more attention and gravitas to the issues she cares most about. She hopes to expand Truth in Accounting across disciplines, building internships for students in law and public policy.
But there was also the appeal of returning to the place that made her childhood dreams come true.
Well into her 50s, comfortably teaching at MSU Denver, Kuglin was presented with a second chance at her first love—the career life had forced her to forgo.
“One day, my [department] chair, because I had a master’s and not a terminal degree, called me up and said, ‘Hey, would you consider getting your PhD?’” Kuglin recalled. “And I said, ‘No, but I would consider getting my JD.’”
So, at age 55, Kuglin left her job and went back to school full time, earning her JD and an LLM in taxation from the Sturm College of Law in 2019.
“It was hard. It was really hard,” she said. “But every day I woke up and felt so grateful. I was old enough to understand how lucky I was to do this.”
Her law education certainly overlaps with the accounting profession she has come to love. Lawyers, she points out, frequently negotiate financial settlements. Accountants need to understand the laws surrounding an audit. The education has proved invaluable—she’ll teach Accounting for Lawyers at Sturm this fall—but the experience has been everything.
“I truly loved every day,” she said. “When you wait your whole life to do something, you recognize the blessing of it.”