Prof: Experience is key

January 28, 2014
Charles Hageboeck

If experience makes a difference in the classroom, then students in Intermediate Accounting II should benefit from Theresa Hilliard.

Hilliard joined the College of Business and Economics after earning a DBA at Georgia State University last May. However, her professional experience began as a program marketing manager with General Motors. After pursuing a master's degree in professional accountancy, her professional journey continued as an audit manager at Plante & Moran, PLLC, in Southfield, Mich., where she specialized in international consolidations for manufacturing entities.

She was actively engaged in furthering the practice and participated as a project manager for a career development grant from the State of Michigan to develop and implement student outreach initiatives. Her professional path continued when she moved to Charlotte, N.C., and accepted a position as a senior tax manager with Dixon Hughes Goodman, specializing in pass-through entities and high net-worth clients.

"I know where my students are going," she said. "Having been in professional practice, I know what they need to learn here in order to serve clients."

Throughout her 12-year career in public accounting, she taught as an adjunct professor. "I felt that my practitioner experience was beneficial to the classroom, and my teaching experience complemented the practice," she said. "However, in my last year of public accounting, I was being groomed for the partner track, and I knew that I would no longer be able to teach. Given my love of the profession, I felt I could make a greater contribution to the practice by being in academia. I was fortunate to have mentors from large universities, University of North Carolina, University of Tennessee and Michigan State University who encouraged me to pursue a doctorate.

Dr. Hilliard's research has centered on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and the shift to global rules governing reporting. She is specifically interested in the Canadian transition and implementation of IFRS. "The Canadian experience provides valuable insight to U.S. regulators and standard setters as the United States and Canada share many similarities such as high-quality financial reporting and accounting standards, a market-orientation, strong enforcement and legal systems."

Since coming to the College of Business and Economics she has also become involved in an area for which the institution is well known, namely forensic accounting, fraud detection and prevention. In a joint project with Dr. Presha Neidermeyer, Hilliard presented a proposal, "The Impact of Occupational Mobility on White-Collar Crime: Gender Distinctions in a Global Setting," at the Institute for Fraud Prevention (IFP) in New York City. Hilliard and Neidermeyer were awarded a data grant from the IFP. The study examines whether women, a workplace majority, commit similar frauds as those perpetrated by men and various other factors related to these criminal acts. The IFP promotes multidisciplinary research, education and prevention of fraud and corruption to improve the ability of business and government to combat these crimes.

Hilliard has taught nearly every accounting course, but she especially enjoys financial accounting, business combinations and consolidations and international accounting. "I enjoyed these topics as a student, and I further enjoyed working on these types of engagements in the practice," she said.

Her students are "very curious" and she likes to bring them examples of actual accounting scenarios to get them thinking. "It's really important to bring examples that they can connect with; then you can build on that foundation and add higher-level concepts," she said.

Since moving to Morgantown last semester, Hilliard has found that it's the people she likes best. "The people here at the College of Business and Economics are very collaborative," she said. "They want you to be successful, and they are really genuine. I am honored to be working with some very talented people, and I know that I'll benefit from it."

An outdoors enthusiast, Hilliard recently backpacked for three weeks in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with her sons Max, age 8, and Jack, age 13, and husband, Craig. She has also been a sailor since high school and has participated in the The Bayview Mackinac Boat Race, one of the longest fresh-water races in the world, nearly a 300-mile course, with more than 200 boats entering the race each year.

Hilliard earned a DBA degree at Georgia State University in 2013. Her dissertation was "The Effects of Adopting IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards): The Canadian Experience." She received a master's degree at Walsh College of Accountancy and Business Administration in 1997 and a bachelor's degree from Western State University of Colorado in 1991.

"I always share with my students that a career in accounting is malleable and can evolve into whatever you choose for it to be. To me, a career in accounting is the gift that keeps giving," she said.