Professor Karla Zehms remembers her first dissertation rejection well. Biking home through Madison’s Arboretum, she was so devastated that she didn’t even realize she was in the wrong lane—until she saw the traffic barreling toward her. Today, Zehms, the Ernst & Young Professor in Accounting and the associate dean of doctoral programs and research at the Wisconsin School of Business, ranks among the most prolific and impactful researchers in her field.
Zehms shared her experience during Friday’s hooding ceremony for Wisconsin School of Business doctoral students and their assembled family and friends. Vallabh “Samba” Sambamurthy, WSB’s Albert O. Nicholas Dean, presided over the 16 graduating students and gave the keynote address.
“It is our faculty and colleagues’ passion for doctoral programs and research that enables us to recruit top-notch students from across the world, prepare them for careers in [academia], and place them in excellent schools,” Sambamurthy said.
He noted that this year’s job placements for graduates of WSB’s PhD program include five top-tier research institutions and four top international universities.
Sambamurthy recalled to graduates a mentor from his own doctoral days who imparted what today is known as “engaged scholarship.”
“When I came to Wisconsin, I realized that’s the Wisconsin Idea: that scholarship must be both rigorous and relevant, that our research must go beyond the four walls of this building, beyond the confines of our academic community,” said Sambamurthy. “And we have an opportunity to speak to multiple stakeholders, fellow researchers, students, policy makers, and business leaders.”
Giving back is also important. “I encourage you to find your own mentors, emulate their lives and examples,” Sambamurthy said. “But as you grow and establish your own reputation, become mentors for the next generation.”
Garnering top placements
This year’s graduating class will join high-ranking research institutions in tenure-track, assistant professor positions. Some of the placements include: Duke University; George Mason University; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; University of Houston; State University of New York at Binghamton; Peking University HSBC Business School; and the University of Toronto, among others.
These PhD graduates are poised to educate a new wave of business leaders and perform research that will shape industry and inform business decision-making.
“The marketing department is extremely proud of its graduating class of five PhD students,” Neeraj Arora, the Arthur C. Nielsen, Jr. Chair in Marketing Research and Education and a professor in the Department of Marketing, says. “They are emblematic of the high standard of scholarship and teaching that we instill in our students. They will spread the academic values of the Wisconsin School of Business all over the world.”
Marketing graduate Srinivas Tunuguntla (MS ’17, PhD ‘22) is headed to Duke. In addition to the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Genevieve Gorst Herfurth Award that he received in January, Tunuguntla and co-author Paul Hoban received the American Marketing Association’s Paul E. Green Award. The award recognizes their article, “A Near-Optimal Bidding Strategy for Real-Time Display Advertising Auctions,” first published in the organization’s Journal of Marketing Research (JMR). Per the website, “the Paul E. Green Award recognizes the article in JMR that demonstrates the greatest potential to contribute to the theory, methods, and practice of marketing.”
Tom Linsmeier, the Thomas G. Ragatz Accounting and Law Distinguished Chair and a professor in the Department of accounting and information systems, noted the impact that the future accounting faculty graduating from WSB will make, including his advisees: Zach King (PhD ‘22) and Mayer Liang (PhD ‘22).
“Zach has developed an exciting research program focusing on the accounting for intangible assets. His dissertation has the potential to change academic thinking about the accounting for R&D activities and is relevant to current accounting policy decisions. He has an exciting future as a researcher and teacher. He will represent UW well,” Linsmeier said.
“Mayer is an outstanding teacher and has great potential as a researcher,” Linsmeier said. “She has a well-developed research program focusing on financial reporting classifications in the cash flow statement. Her dissertation is relevant to current international standard setting activities and extends academic research on the comparability of financial statements to specific accounting decisions. We are proud she is a Business Badger.”
Tunuguntla, King, and Liang are examples of the next-generation thinkers that define WSB’s doctoral graduates. They are poised to educate a new wave of business leaders and perform research that will shape industry and inform business decision-making.
Forever a Badger
Sambamurthy reminded graduates that becoming a Badger is to join an “amazing community as members, and you will script your own future.”
Dedicating oneself to a life in academia is a “noble choice,” he said. “It is gratifying. It is challenging, but it is extremely rewarding in terms of the impact that you will make, the countless lives that you’ll influence as researchers, as teachers, and through your outreach to industry and to society.”
“You will blaze the trail,” Sambamurthy said. “And we will watch you with pride.”