Published doctoral grads adding up
Five graduates of The University of Mississippi’s doctoral program in accountancy have distinguished themselves professionally not only by establishing successful careers in higher education but also by having their dissertations published as books.
They are James W. Davis (BBA 62, MS 63, PhD 73), Felix Amenkhienan (BBA 75, MBA 76, PhD 84), Margaret Hoskins (PhD 92), Laurie Barfitt (PhD 06) and Rich Criscione (PhD 08).
Associate Dean Dale Flesher said this puts the Patterson School above the national average for published doctoral graduates.
“One study showed that only about 1 percent of doctoral dissertations are ever published as books; we are experiencing about five times the national average for such,” he said. “Essentially, it was the topics they selected that made their dissertations of interest to a publisher. All of our doctoral students have written great dissertations; we wouldn’t otherwise have let them graduate. But these students conceptualized topics that were of interest to many people.”
This trend of excellence began with James W. Davis, who has been on the accountancy faculty since 1965 and holds the distinguished Peery Chair in Accountancy. His dissertation was the basis for his book, The History of Certified Public Accountants in Mississippi 1904-1977, published in 1977 by the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants. Members of the society donated funds to have the book published, and their names are listed in the back of the book.
“We put a copy [of the book] in the hands of every member and in every collegiate library in the state,” Davis said. “It was a timely project because there were people still alive who were pioneers in the accountancy profession in Mississippi. I interviewed people who entered the profession before 1920 when the first law regulating the profession was passed in the state.”
Amenkhienan’s dissertation, Accounting in Developing Countries: A Framework for Standards Setting, was published in 1986 by University Microfilms International. Targeting accounting academics, policy makers and standard setters, the book suggests a model for developing and emerging economies to set standards relevant to their underlying environments.
Currently a professor of accounting at Radford University in Virginia, Amenkhienan served as chair of the Department of Accounting, Finance and Information Systems there from 1992-2006. (The department has been reorganized and renamed the Department of Accounting, Finance and Business Law in the College of Business and Economics.) He also was on the faculty at Arkansas State University from 1983-85.
“I still treasure my experience at the School of Accountancy at Ole Miss, particularly the mentoring by Dr. Dale Flesher and the late Dr. Russell Briner,” Amenkhienan said. “I will be forever thankful that I had the opportunity to learn under Dr. Jimmy Davis, Dr. Tonya Flesher and Dr. Charles Taylor.”
Hoskins is interim dean and Don Dodson Professor of Accounting at Henderson State University in Arkansas, where she has been since she completed her doctorate at Ole Miss. Her dissertation, Mary E. Murphy’s Contributions to Accountancy, was published by Garland Publishing, Inc., in 1994.
Murphy was the first Fulbright Professor of Accounting and a leading author of The Accounting Review from 1946-65. “Murphy’s accomplishments are particularly noteworthy because they occurred during a time when women were discouraged from entering the accounting profession,” Hoskins said. “She was unique during her time because she recognized changes that were taking place in the world and envisioned the effect of those changes on the accounting profession.”
Reflecting on her experience as a doctoral student, Hoskins said, “I don’t think anyone pursuing a doctoral degree has ever had such a rewarding experience as I had at Ole Miss. All of the professors asked probing questions and directed my research very well. One often hears horror stories from those who have pursued their doctoral degrees, but, at every opportunity, I use my experience there to encourage others.”
The dissertation of Barfitt, associate professor of accounting at Western New Mexico University, was published in 2007 by JAI Press. Titled The Contributions of John Lansing Carey to the Profession of Accountancy, the book is a biography of Carey, the longest-serving chief staff officer of the AICPA, and it represents an important chapter in the history of the profession.
Barfitt has been at WNMU for one year, after teaching for nine years at Delta State University. She taught at DSU while working on her PhD except for a year’s leave of absence to finish course work and start her dissertation. She said she looked at several schools before choosing Ole Miss for her doctorate, finally making her decision “mainly because of the curriculum and the opportunity to write a historical dissertation,” she said. “An added bonus was the addition of the AICPA library collection.”
Reflecting on her time at the university, Barfitt said, “I have the utmost respect and admiration for my professors and mentors at the Patterson School and of The University of Mississippi. I love my job and my work, and I have relocated to an area closer to my family. I thank Ole Miss for giving me the ability and resources to accomplish these goals.”
Criscione is assistant professor of accounting at Morehead State University in Kentucky, a position that he accepted three years ago. His dissertation, The Influence of Abraham Briloff: Accountancy’s Guru or Gadfly?, is under review by a book publisher and is expected to be accepted, according to Flesher, Criscione’s dissertation chair.
Abraham Briloff, a retired professor at City University of New York, wrote numerous articles and a few books over the years analyzing company financial statements and pointing out where they were misleading. “His influence reached the point that any time he wrote about a company, the company’s stock would drop,” Flesher said.
Criscione credits the Patterson School for having a top-notch doctoral program. “I felt very well-prepared when I entered the academic job market and interviewed with various institutions at the American Accounting Association annual meeting in 2004,” he said. “I especially appreciated the willingness and friendliness of the faculty, their efforts to assist us in attaining our goals and the collegial atmosphere within the school and among my doctoral colleagues.”