Lillian Mills

March Madness is not just for basketball fans this year. Last week, UT’s accounting department won a national accounting championship based on this year’s NCAA tournament bracket.

The competition, organized by Brigham Young University, compares the quantity of articles published in top accounting journals within the past six years. The universities included are based on the 64 teams competing in the NCAA Division I Basketball Championship.

Accounting professor Steven Kachelmeier said he attributes the department’s success to the University’s established history and diverse staff.

“We have the tradition and the scale,” Kachelmeier said. “We have courses in every facet of accounting that gives us the skill set to have a diversity of faculty that covers a multitude of areas reasonably well. We’re a pretty big player in the accounting domain. As long as the basketball team does its job of getting us in the bracket, we’ll win.”

This year, UT defeated Ohio State University in the final round, securing its third win since 2010.

Lillian Mills, chair of the accounting department in the McCombs School of Business, said the department’s faculty are talented on an individual level.

“In basketball language, we aren’t a team with a single outside shooter — we have such a deep roster that any one of my colleagues could be the star on another team.” Mills said.

Kristen Valentine, who went to BYU for undergraduate coursework and is now a UT accounting graduate student, said she used BYU’s national ranking system when selecting UT for graduate school. 

“I did spend time looking at BYU’s rankings to help identify programs to apply to for graduate school and I was excited to see the breadth of topic and method in research at UT,” Valentine said. “I really liked the culture of the department. Students were treated as collaborators and co-workers.”

April Stockwell, communications and marketing manager for McCombs, said she thinks the department will continue to do well because of the devotion of the faculty at the business school.

“We have a solid group of faculty focused on providing students a solid accounting education while furthering accounting research,” Stockwell said. “They innovate both in the classrooms by using technology where it’s applicable and in developing high quality research that is well-respected by their peers. Our department is not only a solid team, everyone is passionate about what they do and it shows in rankings and student satisfaction.”

For the fourth year running, the McCombs School of Business ranked No. 1 among academic institutions for accounting in a national report evaluating graduate success.

The 2013 Public Accounting Report involved polls of hundreds of accounting professors from nearly 200 institutions, asking them to evaluate programs based on the likelihood of graduates becoming partners — the highest rank for an accountant in a public firm. McCombs placed first in all three categories in the PAR survey: undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D.

Jim Franklin, the school’s Master in Professional Accounting (MPA) program director, said he thinks the department’s success starts with an exceptional faculty.

“Our faculty are not just outstanding professors in the classroom, but they are also amazing researchers who have a lot of their work published in prominent academic journals,” Franklin said. 

Franklin also cited the culture of the student body as a factor in the school’s success.

“[Students] who come to the school are smart and energetic, with a sincere desire to really work hard and achieve,” Franklin said. “When you bring in an outstanding faculty to teach them, you end up with outstanding graduates who go on to do great things.” 

Accounting department Chair Lillian Mills said she was encouraged by the graduates’ employment prospects, saying some of the nation’s top accounting firms hire more UT graduates than graduates from any other school. 

“Our students are in high demand by employers,” Mills said. “We attract more than 100 non-[Certified Public Accountant] firm employers to campus who are eager to hire our accounting graduates. As a result, each year about 95 percent of our students are employed at graduation.” 

In addition to maintaining their No. 1 ranking, the accounting department recently created a new partnership with Ernst & Young Foundation, an accounting firm, to attract minority students to the field. 

“We are partnering with Ernst & Young to attract and mentor more under-represented minority students to UT’s MPA program,” Mills said. “By pairing interested minority MPA students with a working professional mentor from Ernst & Young, and pairing those same MPA students as ambassadors to interested McCombs sophomores, we expect to attract more business students to major in accounting.”

Fifth year MPA student Francisco Loredo said he was drawn to McCombs’ rich history and student life, as well as to its internationally renowned faculty. 

“Inside the classroom, professors challenge [students] to not only learn and understand accounting, but to identify issues with current standards and practice,” Loredo said. “The program also helps build team work and leadership — skills that are so crucial in the business world.”