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Interviews | Oct 20, 2017 |

Talking with … May Zhang

May ZhangEvery “Talking with…” feature introduces you to a different Gabelli School faculty member, administrator, or staff member. This week, we’re speaking with May Zhang, assistant professor of accounting and taxation.

What did you do before coming to Fordham?
Prior to coming to Fordham, I was on the faculty of the Trulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri-Columbia, after earning my PhD in accounting from the University of Texas at Austin.

What’s something that has changed in your field in the past five years?
We live in an era of rapid changes. I feel that the most significant changes are the “disruptions” and integration of technology (such as AI, blockchain, and cloud storage) in the accounting profession. In addition to the traditional core accounting skills, future accounting professionals will need strong technical skills as well as a global, analytical, and innovative mindset to adapt to the new business environment.

What is your favorite part about teaching international accounting?
There has been ever-increasing acceptance of the International Financial Reporting Standards around the world, and the International Accounting Standards Board is initiating new developments all the time. These are very exciting new topics to teach. However, I must say that my favorite part about teaching is the diverse backgrounds of my students. I have taught students from different countries and cultures: Austria, China, Colombia, Korea, India, Switzerland, and many others. They all bring different experiences and perspectives to the classroom, which enriches the learning experience for everyone, including myself.

Can you give an example of how you might use your accounting skills to serve others?
Accounting is set of practical skills that can be readily applied to our daily lives, from balancing your own checkbook to making important investment decisions. I personally have been involved in community services such as serving on my child’s school’s PTA and organizing the school budget review group to promote communication and transparency between the school district administration and the residents. In the future, I hope to be more involved in community services that help financially illiterate seniors avoid financial fraud and scams that target older people.

How can good—and poor—corporate governance affect a company and its community?
Governance mechanisms are in place to mitigate the agency cost between the absentee shareholders—the owner—and the managers, as the agent. The board of directors, which is elected by the shareholders, is charged with this important role.

In an effectively governed company, the board “sets the tone at the top” with respect to the company’s key strategies, risk policies, and corporate culture. Procedures and controls are in place to ensure that the managers “do the right things” and carry out the strategies and policies that will lead to shareholder wealth creation and the long-term success of the company. Poor governance could result in managers’ misappropriation of company assets or a complete collapse of the company, as in the case of Enron.

 

Fun questions

Favorite candy bar:
Kit Kat.

Favorite play or musical:
Hamilton.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school?
Science.

Are you a morning or night person?
Kind of both, having to get up early to get my kids ready for school and to stay up late to get my own work done.

What’s next on your New York City “bucket list”?
Take a walk in Central Park to see the fall foliage and shoot some beautiful photos.

If you could be any character in a book, who would you choose?
Hermione Granger.

 

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