Much like the farming taking place in our surrounding communities, Clara Chen sees success as a professor as a reflection of the place you’re planted.
In Chen’s case, Gies has been that place since 2006 when she arrived on campus after earning her PhD from USC. Illinois has been “the soil on which I have grown from a fresh PhD graduate to an academic,” said Chen, the Lillian and Morrie Moss Professor in the Department of Accountancy. It’s soil, she explains, that is rich in diversity, inclusivity, and support, all important ingredients for productivity.
She points to the College’s long history of welcoming international students and scholars and of embracing diversity. That diversity extends to the various research methods undertaken by the department’s faculty, which Chen says creates unparalleled opportunities for students and faculty alike. “We have faculty using the archival method, experimental method, analytical method, qualitative field research, and even history research. Such diversity in perspectives makes our department a perfect incubator for innovative research.”
Chen’s research focuses on how performance measurement and incentive systems influence employee behavior. “It’s about this simple idea that individuals not only care about money, but also care about social and behavioral factors such as trust, reciprocity, fairness, ethics, social norms, and the purpose of their work,” she said. “Therefore, organizations have to take these factors into consideration when designing incentives.”
Brooke Elliott, the associate dean for online programs, said, “Clara Chen is one of the most visible global leaders in the area of management accounting research. Her ability to draw on diverse theories and methods is clearly leading to innovative, impactful research.”
It’s work that Chen says is possible because of the environment of collaboration and collegiality that is cultivated at Gies, including the support of “a large number of inspiring and fearless female leaders” across the College. As the department’s PhD program director, she also appreciates the opportunity to guide others seeking to break new ground through their doctoral work.
“The nurturing environment of this campus, College, and the department has enabled me to thrive. It provides the soil for my growth, and I’m extremely grateful for it,” said Chen.
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