2018 Top 50 Undergraduate Professors: Michael Donohoe, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Gies)

Michael Donohoe

Associate Professor of Accountancy and PwC Faculty Fellow

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, Gies College of Business

2018 recipient of the Illinois CPA Society Outstanding Educator Award, 2015-2016 honoree for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s College of Business Alumni Association, and a six-time placement among list of teachers ranked as excellent by their students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. What is it that makes Michael Donohoe of the Gies College of Business such an outstanding professor of accountancy? Alumni have stated that he is, “truly one of a kind,” “a lifelong mentor,” and someone whom “I aspire one day to be like.” Students have given Donohoe high ratings for his rapport with them as well as his commitment to their education, his depth of knowledge of the subject matter, and overall enthusiasm. Professor Donohoe merges prior industry experience as a tax associate for firms PwC and Gunn & Company with government perspectives on tax regulation to create innovative teaching content. He is also praised for integrating pedagogical practices that emphasize teamwork and active learning for his students.

Age: 39.01095

Education: PhD, Accounting, University of Florida, Fisher School of Accounting; MAcc, Taxation, University of North Florida; BS, Accounting, University of Florida, Fisher School of Accounting

At current institution since: 2011

List of courses you currently teach: Taxation of Business Entities; The Offshore Financial World: U.S. and British Virgin Islands (an annual tax-themed study abroad trip with ~10 undergraduate students)

Twitter handle: None. Off the grid.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? As a quintessential accountant, I am most proud of achieving tenure at one of the most highly regarded accountancy programs on the planet.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” as an adjunct instructor, I was the youngest person in the classroom and the students did not revolt.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Fidgety

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My coauthors and I are currently researching whether and how selective corporate tax cuts influence the economic performance of rival firms that do not directly benefit from the tax cuts. Using the repatriation tax holiday under the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 as our setting, we find that the decrease in the U.S. tax burden on foreign earnings for repatriating corporations has a negative effect on the economic performance of their non-repatriating product market competitors. This negative externality is stronger when the competitors face financial constraints, operate in more concentrated markets, and have products similar to those of their repatriating rivals. These findings should inform policymakers on the potential consequences of another repatriation tax holiday—this time permanent—as part of recent corporate tax reform.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? When I received a teaching excellence award that was based solely on student nominations.

Since you first started teaching, how has business education changed? Technology has substantially increased access to high-quality education. Some of the best and brightest instructors in the world are now accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be…” a business jet pilot.  

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a professor”:  A flexible work schedule really means you can choose which 80 hours to work each week. Regarding research, I wish someone would’ve told me that Reviewer #2 is always so fussy.

Name of the professor you most admire and why: My dissertation chairman and coauthor, Gary McGill (University of Florida), because he is both a serious tax academic and someone that colors outside the lines every now and then. I hope to be like him when I grow up.

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? Connecting with them at a time when they are exploring professional interests and developing an initial path.

What’s the biggest challenge? The biggest challenge is convincing them to relax and recognize that they do not need to have “all the answers” by graduation. Well, that, and getting them to read the syllabus.  

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? A former student overcame the death of his parents, graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Accountancy, passed the CPA exam, worked in public practice, and is now receiving substantial media attention for starting his own financial advisory firm targeting the unique needs of millennials.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Attend law school? I’m kidding. I can’t think of anything. They’re all pretty amazing.

Since you’ve been teaching, how have students changed over the years? Students read less these days; they rely more and more on technology to learn (looking at you, Google).

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Given the inherent complexity of taxation, a student in my course must invest time, think deeply, and be rather persistent. They must also read the syllabus.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” unnecessarily witty

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be? “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins.

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student Clever

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student Idle

“If my students can think deeply and remember to laugh, then I’ve done my job as their professor.” 

Fun fact about yourself: I hold a private pilot’s license with an instrument rating.  Also, I was a skating rink DJ for many years in my youth.

What are your hobbies? Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; Aviation; Music

How did you spend your summer? I updated my course to include the effects of recent tax reform. I also vacationed with my wife in the Mediterranean.   

Favorite place to vacation: St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Favorite book: Internal Revenue Code (no, not really).  

Favorite movie and/or television show: The Office

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Reggae (old school and new school)

Bucket list item #1: Learn to play the guitar

What’s the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment? Keeping pace with the demand for innovative approaches to learning.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…”  Engaging content that is fresh, fun, and relevant.   

“And much less of this…” Emphasis on GPAs.  

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you. Looking back 10 years and thinking, “I am so much better at this now.”

Students say…

“Michael is truly one of a kind.”

“A lifelong mentor.”

“I aspire one day to be like him.”

“Taking his course was one of the best decisions I made.”