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KPMG Faculty Fellowship

Dahlia Robinson with KPMG’s Lori Nissen

KPMG's Lori Nissen with KPMG Faculty Fellow Dahlia Robinson

As one of the Big Four accounting firms, KPMG has long been a company where the brightest and most competitive students want to work and intern. But less widely known are KPMG's contributions to scholarship at USF through faculty fellowships.

Since 2008, KPMG has supported a fellowship at the USF Lynn Pippenger School of Accountancy. The firm recently renewed its support of the $75,000 gift and Professor Dahlia Robinson will continue as the KPMG Faculty Fellow, recognizing her research contributions and excellence in the classroom.

Todd Webster, audit managing director in KPMG's Tampa office, said the gift supports active scholars who need research funding for summer inquiries. The fellowship, payable over three years, has been credited as a significant factor in the success of Robinson's research: she is in the top 10 nationwide in terms of frequency of research publications among all doctoral students who graduated in 2000.

One of the things that makes this gift different from a typical fellowship, said Webster, is that the gifts to support it were provided, in large part, by USF alumni across the KPMG firm and the partners and managing directors of KPMG's Tampa office.

"We have an annual giving campaign and, as part of that campaign, USF alumni – about 80 people across the firm – raised $10,000 for the fellowship," Webster said. He said that the KPMG Foundation matched alumni gifts and then contributed another $5,000 because of the honoree's relationship with The PhD Project, an outreach effort to increase the number of minority professionals who earn a doctorate and transition into business faculty roles.

The KPMG Foundation is one of the founding supporters and lead administrators of The PhD Project, which reaches out to corporate America to recruit talented minority professionals who might make excellent doctoral students. Since its 1994 inception, the number of business professors from underrepresented populations has risen from 294 to 1,312. Robinson, who received a KPMG Minority Accounting Doctoral Scholarship from 1995-1999, is one of four current USF professors from The PhD Project.

USF Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem said that faculty fellowships provide opportunities for faculty to investigate emerging business trends or try to answer questions that are important to practitioners as well as academics. For example, Robinson has examined how governance potentially influences managerial actions and disclosures. She has also investigated the relationship between audit committee quality, corporate governance, and audit committees' decisions regarding tax services. She has shared her findings at advisory board meetings and at large American and international conferences.

"I wanted to know if companies that change auditors and then borrow from private lenders incur higher loan costs," said Robinson, explaining the impetus behind a recent study that found a significant increase in loan spreads – as well as an increase in upfront and annual fees and the probability of pledging collateral – on bank loans initiated within a year after auditor changes.

"This is consistent with an increase in screening and monitoring by the bank," she said. "However, there was no effect resulting from the forced auditor changes due to the demise of Arthur Andersen, suggesting that lenders do not appear to reflexively respond to auditor changes and that financial markets in general would not impose any additional penalties for mandatory auditor rotation," Robinson added.

Webster said that while KPMG often supports student scholarships, this particular gift is important because it impacts those who impact others.

"We all – at some point – have gotten to where we are because of a professor's influence," he said, referencing professors who have helped students land internships or offered advice and mentoring beyond the classroom.

"This is an opportunity to give back to those people who are educating the next generation of talent, to recognize the professors who are part of the reason we are all successful."

"This is our opportunity to say thanks," he added.