A lot of people you interact with are not accounting people, so you need to be able to communicate with anybody.

Kristy Schenck

Kristy Schenck knew she wanted to be a college professor even before she knew she wanted to study accounting.

As an undergraduate looking for the right major, she felt first-hand the positive effect excellent teachers can have. "All the professors I had were so great in helping students identify what they wanted to do," she says. "They made such a difference in my life, I'd love to do the same thing."

After earning her degree in accounting, Schenck worked as an accountant for several years before returning to graduate school, knowing the practical experience would help her be a better teacher. Working at PricewaterhouseCoopers, known as one of the "Big Four" accounting firms, at a real estate investment firm, and at the U.S. Department of Defense gave her a broad understanding of the job market her students will enter.

Schenck looks forward to teaching the life skills that students need as much as the technical accounting knowledge. Communication skills top her list. "A lot of people you interact with are not accounting people, so you need to be able to communicate with anybody," she says.

She also looks forward to learning along with her students under Bucknell's teacher-scholar model. Her research focuses on deterrents to accounting crime. For her dissertation, Schenck asked whether the knowledge that one company is under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) prompts peer companies to clean up their accounting acts. To see whether the likelihood of misreporting is lower after the public revelation of SEC involvement in another company, she looked at a comprehensive measure of likelihood of misreporting that includes financial characteristics, management characteristics and governance characteristics.

She found that peer companies did indeed change their accounting practices under three conditions: companies that use one of the big four auditing firms, that are in industries in which the SEC is more persistent with investigations, and that share the same types of aggressive accounting practices with a company under investigation were all more likely to show changes in their accounting practices after learning that a similar company was the target of an SEC investigation.

In the future, Schenck would like to study the effect of social connections on accounting practices. "There are a lot of people who serve on other company's boards," she says. "I would like to see how social networks help or hurt deterrence."

Posted October 2012