2018 Top 50 Undergraduate Professors: Wayne Shaw, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

Wayne Shaw

Helmut Sohmen Distinguished Professor of Corporate Governance

Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

Professor Shaw’s mission is to prepare students to be ready for — and adaptable in — any career situation. According to the associate dean of the SMU Cox BBA program, it appears to be a mission accomplished. “Whenever Cox accounting alumni come back to campus, they all comment about how well-prepared they were and are, compared to their peers, for challenges that arise on the job,” says associate dean Jim Bryan. “Inevitably, they credit the lifelong skills Dr. Shaw taught them.” Professor Shaw puts his pre-professorial experience as an IRS large case audit group expert to use when teaching students how to navigate tax compliance. Undergrads credit him with being one of their most rigorous, but also one of their most relevant, Cox professors. As such, he is a sought-after accounting professor, and his importance to students is reinforced by the many distinguished teaching awards he has earned at the Cox School.

Age: 68

Education: PhD in Accounting, University of Texas at Austin

At current institution since: 1995

List of courses you currently teach: Corporate Taxation, Entity Taxation, Emerging Issues in Financial Accounting, Tax Compliance, International Taxation, Tax Research

What professional achievement are you most proud of? The professional achievement I’m most proud of is receiving the SMU HOPE Professor of the Year given by Resident Assistants to one faculty member each year.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I was given my first teaching assistant position at Oklahoma City University in 1969 as a sophomore.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Exciting.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My current research is on the market’s interpretation of accounting disclosures.  I wrote with John Elliott at Cornell University the first paper that provided an understanding for the varied motivations companies have for taking large asset write-downs known as “Big Baths.”

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? My most memorable moment as a professor is when a student returned to my class after undergoing successful cancer treatment and was given a standing ovation by the class.

Since you first started teaching, how has business education changed? Since I first began teaching, business education has become far more departmental-oriented away from cross-discipline study.

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be…” teaching something else.

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a professor”: I wish someone would have told me how profoundly I would have been impacted by helping students develop.  If I had known that earlier, I would have entered teaching earlier.

Name of the professor you most admire and why: Professor Tom Dyckman from Cornell University.  He had a significant influence on my teaching style.  

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? I most enjoy helping them make career decisions and seeing the outcomes of their successes.

What’s the biggest challenge?  The biggest challenge is helping some students focus on their studies.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? One of my weakest students, in terms of grade but not effort, nominated me for a university teaching award that I received.  

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Given up.

Since you’ve been teaching, how have students changed over the years? Students today are far more technology savvy.  However, I am concerned that at times they pay less attention to developing critical thinking skills, rather relying on the technology.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? To get an A in my class, students have to have a desire to learn and get help if necessary to succeed.

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

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be? “I’ve Got to be Me”

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

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

“If my students can think rather than memorize, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

Fun fact about yourself: I worked on a fishing boat at 5-years-old.

What are your hobbies? Golf

How did you spend your summer? Doing research, consulting and traveling.

Favorite place to vacation: San Diego with my grandson.

Favorite book: “A Time to Kill” by John Grisham

Favorite movie and/or television show: “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Jimmy Buffet

Bucket list item #1: Seeing my grandchildren grow up

What’s the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment? I think the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment is maintaining the relevance of the classroom experience to today’s business environment.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” real world examples and applications.

“And much less of this…” theory unconnected to the real world.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you: still receiving the joy I receive now from interaction with my students.

Students say…

“I never realized how much of an impact Professor Shaw had on my understanding of tax accounting until I began my undergraduate internship. On the third day of training we reviewed book-to-tax differences, and I remember feeling prepared and confident on this potentially overwhelming subject. He took complex textbook material and taught it in an enthusiastic way that we were able to comprehend. It was evident that Professor Shaw was focused on his students’ success.”

“Dr. Shaw is the epitome of a well-rounded teacher: intelligent, experienced, connected with the education and business communities, incredibly humorous, and passionate. To better prepare students for our spring tax internships, he opened the fall Tax Compliance course. He made every student feel comfortable with C-corporations, S-corporations and partnerships, and their respective compliance requirements on forms 1120, 1120S, 1065 and respective K-1s within the span of only 5 classes, while also making the course very interesting! Professor Shaw served as a mentor who gave me the confidence and the tools to do great work during my Big Four accounting firm internship.”

“Dr. Wayne Shaw’s approach to instruction has made a lifelong impression on me and he continues to remain one of the most impactful professors and coaches in my career as a senior manager at a Big Four accounting firm. He has a clear passion for imparting knowledge and challenging and nurturing students to their highest potential. I’m a living testament to the fact that his real world experience and practical approach to problem solving impart skills to students that benefit them well beyond the classroom.”

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