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2019 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Devin Manori Shanthikumar, University of California-Irvine (Merage)

Devin Manori Shanthikumar

Associate Professor of Accounting

University of California-Irvine Merage School of Business

Devin Shanthikumar has been nominated for almost 80 awards and honors, has over 1,100 Google citations, and was a Harvard Business School professor before joining the University of California-Irvine’s Merage School of Business. Students at the University of California-Irvine describe Devin Shanthikumar as “amazing and caring” and “truly inspirational” and those who have taken her class before say they would do it all over again.

“Professor Shanthikumar is one of the best faculty I have ever encountered. She communicates complicated (and often dry) concepts (such as cost accounting, ABC costing, etc) in a manner that is extremely educational but also very interesting and fun,” one nominator said. “I learned so much in her Driving Profitability course and am so grateful that I took that class as part of my MBA. Professor Shanthikumar is also an immaculate professional. She is an excellent communicator, an impressive scholar and just an overall wonderful person. There has not been a single encounter I have had with her where I have not walked away 100% impressed. I am eternally grateful not just for what she taught us in her class, but also for the amazing example she sets by just being herself.”

Shanthikumar’s research interests lie in financial accounting and behavioral finance, product development innovation, and investor cognitive limitations, and her works have been in renowned publications including the Review of Financial Studies and Management Science. She earned her degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California-Berkeley and her Ph.D. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance at Stanford University. While others would have been done with their learning, Shanthikumar went on to take on other programs at Harvard Business School such as the Colloquium on Participant-Centered Learning, The General Managers Program, and become a Post-Doctoral Fellow.

Current Age: 39

At current institution since what year? 2010

Education: B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from UC Berkeley; Ph.D. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance from Stanford GSB; Certificate in “The General Manager Program” (executive long course, similar to MBA) from Harvard Business School

List of current MBA courses you currently teach: Driving Profitability through Managerial Accounting for full-time MBA program; Managerial Accounting for Executives for the executive MBA program

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR:

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I’ve known that I want to be a professor since I was five years old. I loved teaching my younger brother and even asked my parents for a white-board for Christmas when I was four. It took me longer to figure out that I wanted to be a business school professor. Ultimately, I realized that business combined all of the topics I was most interested in – math, psychology, economics, law, and more.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

My work focuses on individual investor behavior, the impacts that individuals have on the market, and the role of analysts in advising individuals. My work has shown several ways in which conflicts of interest impact analyst research, and how that, in turn, can lead individual investors to buy stocks when they shouldn’t. However, my work also provides some good news: analyst incentives also drive them to provide higher quality research, and investors get additional information from other sources, such as their local networks and observations, which can improve their returns.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would be a lawyer.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

‘ I see my role as helping students learn ways of thinking, tools, and methods that they will use for the rest of their lives. I use a very active discussion format in my classes, and I update my teaching to develop and incorporate new methods. I want my students to think critically about the issues and to really problem solve.

One word that describes my first-time teaching: Thrilling.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: The main pros of being a business school professor – being able to do a mixture of teaching and research, and being fairly independent – are also the biggest challenges. It’s extremely important to be focused and driven to succeed.

Professor you most admire and why: My dad, J. George Shanthikumar. He was definitely meant to be a professor – it’s where he excels. He is a brilliant researcher, a personable and effective teacher who can explain things in simple terms, and he is constantly reinventing himself. He has had periods in his career when he was almost completely focused on research, other times when he did a lot of consulting, and periods when he has been more focused on administration – such as starting or growing new MBA programs. I suspect that he will never retire because he loves this job too much. I hope I will have as long, varied, and successful of a career while putting my own twist on it.

STUDENTS:

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

I am constantly learning from them. The breadth of life and work experience that they bring to the classroom is incredible. They each have unique stories and have traveled different paths to get to graduate school.

What is most challenging?

Every group of students I have taught has been unique. I still have to constantly re-evaluate what I’m doing to make sure that it is right for the group I am teaching.

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student: Motivated.

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Unmotivated.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair.

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM:

What are your hobbies?

I love being active and spending time outdoors – hiking, running, and trying new things (latest was paddle-boarding). I enjoy a lot of arts-and-crafts hobbies as well but I haven’t been doing as much of those lately – the outdoors is just too attractive in Southern California to stay inside and craft!

How will you spend your summer?

I love to travel. We’re planning a trip to Europe for this summer. I will spend most of the summer working on my research, but I need an annual vacation like that.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: I like variety in my vacations – everything from busy urban sight-seeing tours to relaxed weekends in the mountains with no cell reception. I don’t have a single favorite.

Favorite book(s): Little Women. It was my favorite when I was nine years old, and I love it as much now. It conveys a way of thinking about life and the role of women which influenced me significantly at a young age.

What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Firefly. I enjoy quirky shows that are a little silly, a little nerdy, and have at least a little action. Firefly is the perfect combination.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: EDM! I love the energy of electronic dance music. I think it surprises my students when they realize their nerdy suit-wearing professor listens to EDM.

THOUGHTS OF REFLECTIONS:

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…

Excitement about Accounting! I know I’m biased, but it’s such an important area. Most people think of accounting as “bookkeeping,” and want to do the very minimum. But B-school accounting is different. B-school accounting is focused on how real organizations use accounting to measure and communicate performance, make better decisions, run organizations more effectively, motivate employees, and overall drive performance. It’s something that every manager needs to know – and the more they know the more they can succeed in their careers. So I’m doing what I can to change the “bookkeeping” preconception!

In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what?

Companies need to focus more on what we call “Analytical Decision Making” here at UCI – really thinking decisions through, using data in a smart way to help inform the decision, but not letting the data drive everything. Many companies still do not do basic analysis to inform their decision-making, and others use incredibly complex analysis without actually understanding it, and without understanding the weaknesses of it.

Faculty and administrators say:

“Prof. Shanthikumar is an outstanding faculty member who delivers first-rate courses to students at all levels. In recent years she has taught Managerial Accounting to Executive MBAs, Fully-Employed MBAs, and Full-Time MBAs – always adapting the topics to best fit the particular MBA audience. Her teaching evaluations are consistently at or more commonly above the School’s mean teaching evaluations, and so too are her ranking for how challenging her courses are. She previously taught MBAs at Harvard Business School and is able to blend the case method with lecture/discussion approaches in the classroom. Prof. Shanthikumar also incorporates materials and topics into her classes that recognize that many of our students are from other countries or have ambitions to work in other countries. She includes case studies set in a number of other countries; in class discussions she highlights important features of the business environments in other countries, noting that different cultures can alter the effectiveness of information systems and the resulting business decisions. This approach is undoubtedly related to the fact that Prof. Shanthikumar came to the U.S. as an infant, a child of immigrants. Furthermore, she was one of only a very few women majoring in electrical engineering as an undergraduate. Hence, it is not surprising that she has advised and counseled many students, especially minority and female students, in both undergraduate and graduate studies; her background and experiences seem to have given her a special sense of the importance of diversity and the sometimes difficult aspects of study and work in our culture. Prof. Shanthikumar does research primarily in the area of empirical behavioral accounting and its interface with behavioral finance. She has contributed to the study of investor behavior, the role of security analysts, how investors acquire information, how market inefficiency affects firm investment and measuring innovation and new product development using trademarks. Her publications are in top-tier accounting and finance journals, and her research productivity along with her teaching prowess easily exceeded the bar for tenure. Outside letter writers regarding her tenure case were very positive.”

“Professor Shanthikumar is one of the best faculty I have ever encountered. She communicates complicated (and often dry) concepts (such as cost accounting, ABC costing etc) in a manner that is extremely educational but also very interesting and FUN. I learned so much in her Driving Profitability course and am so grateful that I took that class as part of my MBA. Professor Shanthikumar is also an immaculate professional. She is an excellent communicator, an impressive scholar and just an overall wonderful person. There has not been a single encounter I have had with her where I have not walked away 100% impressed. I am eternally grateful not just for what she taught us in her class, but also for the amazing example she sets by just being herself.”

“Strong, dynamic, caring, dedicated, and positive. That’s Devin! Students don’t see behind the scenes on the incredible effort Devin puts in on their behalf. One example: I brought to her attention that students in the 131A course were overwhelmed with work. It is challenging to learn so many Intermediate Accounting topics and at depth required to pass CPA in just two 10-week courses (131A, B). With Devin’s persuasion of the deans’ office, we now offer a three- course sequence (131A, B, and C). With the more manageable workloads, accounting students will definitely be more cheerful warriors. Devin has also made other improvements to the curriculum so students – watch out for exciting new accounting offerings! Lastly, I coauthor with Devin on research. No idea is too crazy for her to entertain. We have a boatload of fun mixing psychology, economics, and finance into our accounting research.”

DON’T MISS: MEET ALL OF POETS&QUANTS’ BEST 40 UNDER 40 PROFESSORS OF 2019