Karen Ton

Assistant Professor of Accounting, Goizueta Business School, Emory University
Ph.D. in Accounting
Graduated 2015


As an assistant professor of accounting at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, Karen Ton focuses her research on financial reporting, auditing and accounting information in corporate restructuring. It is an expertise she developed during her years at USC Marshall – first as an undergraduate and then as a Ph.D. candidate in accounting. The experience, she says, was critical: “Without support and guidance from Marshall, I would not be where I am today.

For Ton, the decision to matriculate at Marshall for her Ph.D. was easy, a combination of the school’s excellent reputation, stellar faculty and strong record in placing students in academic positions at top schools. Marshall offered another key advantage, as well: the bread of its accounting research program. “The school’s faculty and seminars span research methods (archival empirical, experimental, field studies) and topics (capital markets, managerial, judgment and decision making, positive accounting and auditing),” she says. “Few programs across the nation offer such broad exposure.”

Taking advantage of the full sweep of offerings, Ton says, is made possible by the program’s remarkable flexibility. “The program is structured so that you take coursework in a wide range of topics and then teach a full course, which is important because it gives you great teaching experience for your job search. But the teaching requirement is set up so that it is completed in one year, which preserves the remainder of your time in the Ph.D. program to focus on research. You can then tailor the rest of your program around your research interests” – what Ton calls a “real luxury.”

While at Marshall, Ton’s work distinguished her as an up-and-coming talent to watch. In addition to winning the coveted Mary Pickford Foundation Doctoral Student Excellence Teaching Award and the California Society of CPAs Accounting Doctoral Scholarship, she also received a prestigious Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) Fellowship. During her time in the program, Ton examined and shed important light on whether information transfers through shared auditors can improve audit quality.

Ton attributes a large degree of her success to the strength of her relationships with USC Marshall faculty. “My adviser, Mark DeFond, [professor of accounting and holder of the A.N. Mosich Chair in Accounting] was always available when I had questions or needed advice,” she says. It also helped, she adds, that DeFond is “one of the most widely known and cited researchers in auditing and financial accounting.” It’s a typical Marshall combination: great minds and great mentoring helping to advance student opportunities and careers.